My Twitter cover photo is a picture of me blowing a smoke ring from a vape-machine (follow me @RileyOlli), and at Cambridge, every now and then, I can be seen whipping out my vape-machine in the Cindies smoking area. I receive lots of benefits from smoking my vape-machine besides looking delightfully eccentric. As a social activity, it serves as a superb alternative to twiddling my thumbs whilst pals smoke on their own cigarettes. As well as this, it serves to satisfy my desire for nicotine, as well as working as an effective appetite suppressant, which is most useful when I might otherwise be tempted by Gardies’ cheesy chips later on in the night.
Sadly, however, the cigarettes which my pals smoke aren’t really that good for them. I could tell you all about how smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and strokes, I could wax lyrical about the reduced life expectancy of smokers, and the unbelievable financial toll that it takes on our NHS, but I am well aware that you know all of this.
E-cigarettes such as my vape-machine are not just safer than traditional tobacco products, they are a lot safer – 95% safer according to a review by Public Health England in 2018. Indeed, some of the largest public health organisations have explicitly stated their favourable views on vaping to the government, amongst these are Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health, the British Lung foundation and the Royal College of Physicians. And thankfully, vaping devices are over 10 times more popular than NHS stop smoking services, so much more popular in fact that there are now more ex-smokers who use e-cigarettes than there are current smokers in the UK.
What I love most about vaping however, is that it is a curiously neoliberal phenomenon. In the words of the ‘Vape Expert’ (and former colleague of mine) Daniel Pryor, it is “a consumer-led, technology-fuelled, harm-reduction method that increases choice”. The UK’s only self-professed ‘Neoliberal’ think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, has come out in favour of vaping as a means to improve public health in this excellent report published last year.
Vaping being neoliberal AND safer than smoking seems a combination too good to be true. But there are reasons many have not taken up vaping quite yet. Most smokers appear to significantly misjudge the health effects of e-cigarettes, especially when compared to smoking. Despite the aforementioned report by Public Health England, most smokers in the UK don’t believe that e-cigs are any less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, and this trend looks as if it is worsening. Put simply, the public are very poorly informed about the significant potential health benefits of vaping, and as someone with something of a libertarian bent, it gives me absolutely no surprise that the culprit responsible is arbitrary regulation.
At present, manufacturers are not able to market their tobacco-free alternatives in a way which means that they will effectively reach current smokers. The Committee of Advertising Practice, the Advertising Standards Agency and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice are to blame, banning advertisements for such products with a few obscure exceptions. On top of this, UK broadcast media is presently regulated by the EU, through its draconian Tobacco Products Directive, which has imposed a blanket ban on all advertising of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. Post Brexit, we should be turning our minds to the opportunities for educating the masses on the merits of vaping, amongst other things.
So, if you really care about your smoker friends, you should hound them to start vaping like a proselytizing vegan. Vapers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your high risk of lung cancer, mouth cancer, heart disease, stroke, low bone density, infertility, skin crinkliness, etc.