An open letter to Ruth Malone

Dear Ruth,

In a recent series of statements & exchanges with the vaping community on twitter, you appeared to acknowledge the important role that ecigs are playing, and yet you still want to crowbar a smoke-free non-tobacco product into your smoke-free air act. No. No. And once more, so I know you have heard me, No.

When will you people understand? The smoke-free air act itself is a travesty; a victory for zealous puritan ideology over science & freedom of choice. We will not let you and your colleagues gouge away even more of our freedoms on the basis of an even more spurious cod-scientific pack of lies.

Feel free to open, encourage & support a chain of vape-free coffee shops, bars & restaurants in your state. But don’t for one minute think that your ideology trumps the freedom of others to choose to frequent other cafes, bars & eateries that simply aren’t interested in your petty personal likes & dislikes. You are free to choose, we are free to despise the kind of people who seek to use legislation as a personal battering ram to force others to bend to their quirky, illiberal & frankly inhuman obsessions.

As for garnering support from vapers for your sinister “endgame” concept, you may well find some who are more than receptive. Like non-vaping ex-smokers, some are indifferent towards smoking, others are as rabid as you or Chapman. But I’ll wager that the vast majority, myself included, are still livid at your industry’s relentless campaigns to dehumanise, denigrate, demonise and “denormalise” us.

Many of us still hold a deep resentment towards the tobacco control industry. We believe that our lifestyle choices are our business, and we got tired of being used as worthless cattle, to be herded and poked for the sake of your hatred of the tobacco industry.

We are further enraged by the ever-increasing evidence of the use of junk science & propaganda, and by the industrial-level promotion of ineffective (and in some cases dangerous) substances in your efforts to “persuade” us to quit.

If that’s not enough, for the best part of a decade (for e-cigarettes, and in the case of snus & other smokeless tobacco several decades), your industry has spread misinformation & lies, it has hoodwinked media & politicians with soundbite scaremongering, and it has persuaded many thousands, probably many millions to start or continue smoking lit tobacco rather than one of the many vastly safer alternatives.

You might garner a little support for your endgame. Like I said, all subsets of former smokers include a gang of rabid anti-smokers. But it would take one of two things to get a significant number of vaping activists to even consider approving of your mission. The first is if hell freezes over.

The second is if Glanz, Chapman, Mckee, the FDA, the EU, the WHO (and many more) take a long, hard look at what they’ve already done, and what they continue to do, before spending a great deal of time apologising, grovelling, eating humble pie, and dedicating the next decade to correcting, via research, journals and the mainstream media, the significant damage that they have already done in holding back tobacco harm reduction.

I think I know which of the two is more likely to happen, but you never know.

As you and your colleagues well know, vaping is not only the most effective method of becoming smoke-free, even among large swathes of populations who had no intention of stopping smoking. It is also – as snus did and still does in Sweden – likely to become a product that many start and continue to use without ever smoking lit tobacco.

Since vaping technology will only ever improve (unless regulations to satisfy both tobacco control and, ironically, cigarette manufacturers are introduced), it will only ever become safer. I believe that this is what the tobacco control industry is scared of.

I also believe that the overt and often hysterical campaigning against vaping & e-cigarettes is a refection of an industry position so blinded by a “tobacco (now nicotine) endgame” of their own making, that it is prepared to see a significant proportion of children & young adults start smoking over the coming years, rather than being educated & encouraged to consider the relative safety of e-cigarettes & smokeless tobacco products.

Kids do daft things, they always have, they always will. But they’re not stupid. Given the option between a product that will likely kill them and a range of products that likely won’t (yet deliver the same effects), they’re far more capable than the tobacco control industry gives them credit for to make an informed decision.

Snus works in Sweden on a population level – I know because I’ve seen it in action. That means you have to accept and embrace the fact that it is what young people will choose & use as well. The alternative, as we both know, is that a significant proportion simply start smoking instead.

That the tobacco control industry is prepared to put these people’s health & lives at risk, in order to achieve some far-fetched nicotine-free pipe-dream, is a sad reflection on how ideology, not health, drives many of your leading advocates.

This endgame of which you speak is an unrealistic ideal. Like all prohibition the utopia in the minds of its creators inevitable leads to a dystopia in the real world. The reality is that for the majority of first-time smokers the product they are using is already illicit, it is already illegal. Driving the trade underground via legislation will have the same disastrous (and predicted) effects as the prohibition of alcohol or recreational drugs. If there is a demand there will be a supply, no matter what the risks.

E-cigarettes & snus have already had a massive effect on demand for cigarettes. If only the tobacco control industry could open their eyes to this fact, and let events follow their natural and inevitable course, then vapers and snus users will inadvertantly deliver your endgame on a plate for you.

What we won’t do is join your crusade against smokers.

(Despite your occasional lapses into a seemingly pro-vaping stance, all too often the mask slips):

 

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Oh Ruth, that’s just…

 

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Oh dear…

 

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I rest my case.