Losing the vaping debate.

 

framed

(Part 1 of 3)

First, understand that you’ve been framed.

There’s a saying in politics, business, media, and marriage that essentially goes like this, whoever frames the argument, wins the argument.

The theory is this, if you can successfully confine debate to just one component of the larger issue, you can distract the participants into a never-ending circle jerk. Eventually, everyone becomes so passionate about winning one isolated point that the larger context becomes invisible. This is also known as a red herring – a pickled fish that is so pungent, it becomes distracting.

You met me in my previous essay here. As an adult who vapes to manage my nicotine in a significantly safer way than cigarettes (as opposed to those who may customize devices, build coil art, film their fancy vape rings, or socialize by hanging out in hazy strip mall vape lounges), I admit that I paid very little attention to the burgeoning “industry” as a whole. And I paid even less attention to its critics and detractors. After all, I had bills to pay, children to raise, and a very demanding job. That, and I’m old enough to remember when there was no internet, no cell phones, and no MTV; so I’m not all that hip and the current vape lifestyle didn’t appeal to me. I’m just a guy who stops by one of my local “electronic cigarette” shops every couple of weeks to grab more liquid, avoiding conversation, and generally breathing as little of their fog as possible.

Then two things got my attention.

The first was that the business park where my office was located added the phrase This Includes Electronic Cigarettes to the bottom of every standard No Smoking sign – inside and out. Then, my health insurance premium went up at renewal because I had mentioned to my family doctor at some point during the year that I “vaped”. This apparently led me to receive some kind of electronic Scarlet (or Tobacco-colored?) Letter in my medical record which defined me as a Tobacco User.

When I questioned the added prohibition of vaping in No Smoking areas, I was told that it “just looked like smoking.” When I argued the significant differences and even emitted a wisp of butterscotch smelling vapor in front of the property management executive to prove my point (who dramatically recoiled as if I had just crapped on her desk), she attributed responsibility for the change to the faceless they who always seem to be imposing their anonymous will on our society. There was nothing she could do, she said. And no, apparently they do not have phone numbers.

Trying to deal with the medical system about my Tobacco Letter was even more frustrating. While getting transferred from one useless Member Services Representative to the next, John Candy’s Del Griffith from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles kept repeating in my head, “You have a better chance of playing pick-up sticks with your butt cheeks than getting these people to listen to reason.”

So, what the hell happened?

As quickly as I had those experiences, I began seeing obviously coordinated anti-vaping sentiment everywhere. Suddenly electronic cigarettes were being reported in the news as just as toxic, if not more so, as combustible cigarettes; every politician was suddenly shaking a fist and vowing to save society from their harm; every “vaper” seemed to be exploding; evidenced by photos of them looking grimly from hospital beds and saying, “I thought this was supposed to be a safer option.” Really? My much less harmful nicotine management tool was now just as bad as the things that everyone knows will either kill you outright, or leave you dragging an oxygen tank around until you die; either from COPD or by becoming a wheelchair-bound human torch after flicking your Bic while breathing pure oxygen? Hell, any quick internet search will show that every device containing rechargeable batteries has experienced their moments in the media, including even the photos of grim laptop or cellphone victims lying in hospital beds. That hadn’t been my experience with vaping at all. I had been successfully obtaining vaporized nicotine for several years with no ill effects, and certainly no fires or hospital visits. Was I one of the lucky ones? A statistical outlier – like those anecdotal two-pack-a-day smokers who eat lard by the spoonful, play Russian Roulette for cash every Friday night at the senior center, and still live to be 125?

For my own health and well-being as a “vaper“- I had to look into this new Public Health hysteria. After all, if the new anti-vaping press releases were correct, it would drive me back to the seemingly safer tobacco cigarette, right? Which was a concept that had me wondering what bizarro world I had woken up in. And if they weren’t correct, then Public Health was guilty – either by ignorance and near-criminal irresponsibility, or absolute evil intent – of actively disparaging what could be the most significant public health revolution since…ever.

Over the next twelve months of research, I discovered what I thought were two important things: the Public Health crusade was being directed with evil intent (although some of the unwitting participants think they are doing the right thing), and the second…is that the growing electronic cigarette / vaping industry carries more than just a little blame for the current debacle. (Partly unintentional and to be expected with any societal innovation, and partly because the early trend-setters had a really, really bad strategy. More on this in Part II.)

You see, the faceless they have been able to successfully frame the vaping debate in the context of cigaretteswhich society generally hates. Thereby catching the majority of vaping supporters in the trick bag of unwinnable arguments – the definition of tobacco products, regulations against vaping locations, increasing age requirements, taxation, etc. And you wonder how it is that you can write emails, make phone calls, and give impassioned speeches in legislative chambers – from city councils to the offices of congress – providing both facts and personal perspectives, only to be continually steamrolled by unanimous votes against you. I, myself, am guilty of getting caught in that whirlpool. Political action and debate were my initial responses to seeing Goliath teeing up against my tiny vaping David. So I get it. But that’s when I realized that I had fallen for their tactic.

Please go back and read the first line of this essay before continuing.

Follow the Money to Find Who They Are.

I have no interest in boring you (or myself) by including reams of data, footnotes, and supporting documentation – because everything that I found is freely available online to anyone with an internet connection and the ability to type the word google. And there are far more intelligent people than me sharing the facts freely – scientists, researchers, university professors, physicians, public servants, and even some current and former public health officials; men and women of integrity who see fit to share truth, even if it goes against the government/media/tobacco and pharmaceutical company talking points.

Suffice to say, vaping quality liquids using safe, unaltered devices is between 95%-100% safer than burning cigarettes and sucking in the smoke. Furthermore, cigarette smokers who either reduce their smoking, or (ideally) quit altogether by vaping, will be healthier, happier, and more productive human beings. And if this happens on a large enough scale, the societal benefit – with regard to public health and economics – will be staggering. From that perspective, our future could look like a postcard from Fiji.

So how does money and evil intent fit into the anti-vaping sentiment? Several ways. First, the incredibly wealthy and powerful tobacco conglomerates (usually just called Big Tobacco, and strangely run by the bad guy from every old silent movie; twisting his mustache and laughing maniacally as he ties some poor woman to the train tracks) stand to lose everything to modern vaping. You mean I can get nicotine, a hand-to-mouth motion, and a satisfying inhale/exhale…all without killing myself or everyone around me? Why the hell would I ever buy another cigarette? That’s how that one goes. And since mustachioed Big Tobacco has already admitted in a court of law that he knows that his product kills people and that he doesn’t care, need I really work to prove evil intent on that front?

As an aside, I can at least professionally respect an honest evil like Big Tobacco. I mean, he walks right up to you, punches you in the face, and says, “I am going to kill you and your family because the money is so goddamn good that I can afford to have my conscience surgically removed and buy a yacht.” I obviously wouldn’t invite him to join my bowling league…but at least I know what I’m dealing with.

That brings me to the second fundamental way that money and evil intent influences the Great Vaping Debate. Here’s an illustrative example that is unfortunately real. The California Department of Health funds the Still Blowing Smoke campaign, to educate the general public about the dangers of electronic cigarettes and vaping. To convince the public – which, based on polling trends, it is doing – that you might as well keep smoking cigarettes. Essentially, they want the vaping alternative dead on arrival. By actively disparaging a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, they are ultimately promoting continued cigarette use, correct? Especially if a smokers’ other options (education, gums, patches, prescribed drugs, public shaming, Twinkies, etc.) have all proven mostly ineffective or similarly harmful. It’s important to point this out because several years ago, the State of California borrowed money against their future anticipated revenue from cigarette sales. To put it another way, they took out a loan on a shiny new car and put up the money that they would someday receive on cigarette sales as collateral. Then (cue the gasps) cigarette sales in the Golden State began a downward trend…oddly as vapor product sales were climbing at roughly the same but opposite rate. When it came time to start making payments on the car loan, California discovered that there was no longer as much money coming in from cigarette sales as they had originally forecast.

Guess what happened next? Right, the State began a campaign to demonize vaping. When there are no effective alternatives available, smokers will smoke…and smoke means money. A lot of it.

I have obviously simplified this a bit, but the point is valid. And California is not the only state that did this, nor are they the only ones dependent on cigarette sales for revenue. There is a long list of municipal, state, and federal agencies, as well as various health and educational groups, who rail against tobacco while simultaneously paying for their groceries, rent, and Netflix – at least in part – with tobacco sales money. And many of these agencies and organizations are the voices shouting the loudest against vaping as an effective, less-harmful alternative to cigarettes.

It is clear that there is a coordinated effort to keep cigarette smokers on the same cash-spewing merry-go-round that they have been on for years. Which is absolutely despicable, dare I say evil, considering the health and economic consequences of it…especially when there is an alternative. To further the tragedy, public servants, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare systems, and even non-profit health advocacy groups are complicit with Big Tobacco in this game of cash for the certain death of people they don’t know.

So when you see public health agencies, perfectly-coiffed politicians, talking heads in the media, medical associations, and newspaper editors all disparaging vaping with little-to-no-facts and the exact same key phrases (i.e., “To protect our youth”, “It leads people back to cigarettes”, “It re-normalizes cigarette smoking”) – you can actively assume that they are following the same playbook.

I think it’s absolutely evilcowardly, and based on institutional and individual greed. And what of those folks who happen to be supporting the anti-vaping “movement” out of good intentions? They are ignorant and innocent – but still wildly destructive; like a toddler who finds a loaded pistol under the couch.

There is good news though. Great news, in fact. Victor Hugo once wrote, On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées – commonly paraphrased as no one can resist an idea whose time has come. No government, no politician, and no industry. Remember that automobiles, airplanes, cellular phones, and digital music were all initially attacked by the “experts”, by the legislators, by those they threatened to make obsolete, and by the general public.

Vaping has the potential to benefit society on human and financial scales that dwarf previous innovations. Because it’s not about convenience, it’s about keeping millions of family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers healthy, productive, and alive.

Shame on anyone who fights this innovation out of greed or ignorance. And you know what? Shame on those who dominate the current “vape industry,” continuing to make it about cloud competitions and naked women; that’s like using a new Macbook to drive nails into a board. I’ll address that in the next installment.

Read now:

Part II : Being your own worst enemy.

Part III : Winning your right to live.

Published by

MIT Brickman

Navigating the Tobacco Control and Public Health maelstrom.

31 thoughts on “Losing the vaping debate.”

  1. “Shame on those who dominate the current “vape industry,” continuing to make it about cloud competitions and tits; that’s like using a new Macbook to drive nails into a board.” Amen to that. Young folks I can almost forgive. Others, not so much

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I can understand the outburst against cloud comps and “tits” in vaping, It really has nothing to do with this article, and it is as much a part of the vaping industry as mods, coils, etc. vaping is a community.

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  2. Very interesting thesis point. I look forward to seeing how you expand upon it. I agree that vaping advocates have been tricked (though, I think, not quite as an organized planned tactic) into fighting the wrong fights. However, I am not entirely convinced that framing is the right methodology for understanding that. But I could be convinced — I will keep reading.

    However, many of the details about what motivates anti-THR are either imbalanced (overstating one particular motivation while ignoring others) or repeat somewhat dubious claims. See this series (which will be continued soon): http://antithrlies.com/2015/07/21/why-is-there-anti-thr-1/

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    1. Mr. Phillips, I am simply sharing my experiences, frustration, and viewpoint – with emphasis on ‘simply’. You are obviously included in the “And there are far more intelligent people than me sharing the facts” group. I certainly recommend that anyone who wishes to pull back more of the anti-tobacco-harm-reduction curtain should follow your link.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe it is not about destroying vaping but about controlling the industry, Government, Big Tobacco and Pharma want control of the industry so they make the money! Right now vaping is on the free market and owned by thousands of individual shops and peoples, not like Pharma and Big Tobacco Industry and the Governments are more than willing to help them get control through over regulation laws so the small vendor will not be able to operate and close his/her doors, then Pharma, Big Tobacco and government around the globe will push their products on the public and all three will continue to get the cash. Yes medicines regulation is their best chance and they have the money and power to make it happen, the vape industry being of small owners mainly has no real cash to fight with and there is an old saying “Money talks and Bullshit walks” or “If you don’t want to pay then shut up because no one is listening.” And also the so called anti smoking groups do not want to end tobacco, think about it their paychecks are in the fight against tobacco, there is more money in fighting than solving the problem. Yes vaping is on a slippery slope for sure, we need to start sceaming no Taxation or regulation (above food grade regulation) without PROOF OF HARM!!!

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    1. Unnecessary profanity aside the author makes good and valid points. Hope all the vapers push to keep young ones off the stuff (experimenting youth) while maintaining their resolve to kick cig habit. I support vaping. It’s still a habit but healthy in comparison to cigs. My 68 y. o. buddy still sneaks out to the garage for a cig after quitting cigs. Vaping would be better by far.

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  4. I’m more interested in whether nicotine vaping provides the benefits of Tobacco ,like protection against Alzheimers and influenza.

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  5. Yap, its about CONTROL. Politicians know well enough not to kill the golden goose, but they`ll be damned if she`s allowed to give out eggs for free. All of this demonizing is set-uo for the inevitable taxation and regulation.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Although this article it’s fairly well written, it completely fails to mention the group that most strongly opposes harm reduction. Tobacco companies don’t make money when smokers get sick or die from diseases caused or worsened by smoking….but PHARMACEUTICAL Companies most certainly do. Big Pharma is the “they” you are talking about, not Big Tobacco.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you read my comment above you would see that yes Pharma is part along with Big Tobacco working with Governments, Pharma and BT lobby government PM and Medical powers (WHO,FDA…) country by country they move and poison with propaganda, with bribery and promises to fix the money hole that has opened in the tobacco tax system. They tell them that control of the industry is required and once that is accomplished by over regulation (probably medicines regulation) that the small individual vendors will not be able to meet, then the vendors will have to buy from them or close shop and Pharma and BT will be there to flood the market with their new friendly E-cig that can be sold like a tobacco product and yes taxed in the same way, why not they have done a wonderful job with tobacco for decades right?!

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  7. Well since I quit smoking due to vaping I have been able to save 5000.00 dollars a year some people may save more. …I feel better and I don’t stink ….just saying

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  8. Nice article sir. I have a somewhat different view of the tobacco industry, and see them as less hostile to us than I think you do. They once were not so long ago, and still are from time to time, here and there. But let’s face it, they are about 40% of the market now. Our interests and theirs often councide. Doesn’t make us friends as much as frenemies. For clarity, I own a small vapor products biz, and am also one of the principals in a state trade association in another state. So again, thanks for an interesting article. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well it’s the money combined with the old purist movement which brought about prohibition and laid the groundwork for modern organized crime in the united states.

    For me they are the same as all other religious fundamentalists, unable to find joy in the mere human nature of their lives – while trying to fill that gap with some higher power. We need to frame the debate about them, about their hypocrisy and huge gap to reality – painting them as nothing more than unscientific relics of the past with methods that have proven inefficient and quite dangerous.

    I mean most vape bans in place over the globe are a mere joke. People just disobey them and nobody cares, e.g. Australia, Denmark, Turkey and others.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent information and point of view…the only thing I can say about cloud comps is the following- my husband, a smoker for over 20 years, put down the smokes for good because he wanted to participate in cloud comps. As a smoker his lungs were unable to have the capacity to complete. This was only one of his motivations to be a non smoker. When comping 0 nicotine ejuice is used and battery safety is paramount. I do agree that the cloud chasing can seem off putting to many, with that said I am grateful we are able to compete in cloud competitions.

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  11. In my opinion and my age. This is Napster 2016.

    At this point the vaping community/society is willing to sit down and talk, most of the vape shops and store owners are even self imposing rules that aren’t regulated as of this writing. Child proof containers for Eliquid being done by manufacturers (without government intervention), Vape shops requiring people to be of age, running ID checks on customers that appear to be at or near of age. The industry has been self regulating so far. Trends I’ve been reading are going on ‘vaping in teenagers increased by 300% in the last year’ Ironically.. tobacco smoking also dropped by a proportional amount. I’m not promoting underage use, I’m simply stating that kids will be kids, and they will get into Liquor, Cigarettes, Marijuana, Coke, some cases Heroin. It’s human nature.

    *If my children decide to sneak out and buy a stealth vape pen, vs picking up an eight ball or buying a pack of Marlborough’s I would be pissed, but pleased at the same time. *

    It’s about harm reduction, we’re not claiming these are 100% ‘safe’™

    Breathing the pollution in most American cities isn’t 100% safe.

    We’re at the table, trying to reason with unreasonable 1%’ers that want their money back.

    If the FDA were conserned about public health, they would be spot and randomly testing eliquids to ensure that the quality of the eliquids / Nicotine levels were as advertized on the bottle. and Purity was remaining constant, and fining the people responsible However this would ‘cost’ people money. Especially with healthcare costs this should net the Country as a whole billions of dollars on medical care.

    Unfortunately for you and I, there’s no money in making it ‘safer’.

    My thoughts;
    Not yours.

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    1. “I’m simply stating that kids will be kids, and they will get into Liquor, Cigarettes, Marijuana, Coke, some cases Heroin. It’s human nature.” I agree the only thing we do know for sure is our children will experiment no matter how good a job you have done parenting, they will make choices and some not so good choices on their way into adulthood. There is evidence now that shows where vaping is not age restricted that youth are not picking it up, perhaps because it is not so cool when it is not considered taboo, if you like check out more of my thoughts here https://warrior3995.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/restricting-youth-could-be-a-death-sentence/

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