The mask always slips

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There was an interesting presentation given by Daniel Wikler, Professor of Ethics and Population Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, at a seminar in Stockholm last week. It was notable for  a number of reasons.

Firstly, among the audience were a number of Sweden’s tobacco controllers. I imagine they were choking on their biscuits every time Wikler talked positively about snus in particular and harm reduction in general.

Eyebrows must also have been raised when he spoke glowingly about the mass migration to vaping by the smokers of the world, and that this could well be put at risk by the sort of harsh and prohibitive regulations being demanded by zealous tobacco controllers, and being delivered by their tame and spineless politicians.

He hinted at the ability of consumer harm reduction products like snus and ecigs to act as prophylactics, and seemed to recognise their power to prevent significant population-level take-up of smoking by young people. Which is all very welcome, and exactly the sort of challenging thinking we would expect from a professor of ethics.

He even talked about the remarkable levels of positive consumer activism, and dashed the tiresome “astroturf” label that is so often bandied about by anti-vaping groups when they are unable to meet vapers’ arguments and evidence head-on.

At the beginning of his presentation the professor seemed to be trying to shock his audience with audacious pronouncements – that in the future he wanted to see a wide range of products, that devices should be powerful, that nicotine levels and/or delivery should be higher. Worryingly, he didn’t seem aware that this has already happened, that his “pipe-dream” is in fact the status quo, and that EU and FDA regulations are about to destroy it at the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen. He also drifted off into a little “the Chinese make some weird shit, we can’t trust ’em” riff, which ought to have set some vapers’ alarm bells ringing.

But we’ll forgive him his ignorance of the market and imminent legislation for the moment. What’s important is that he seemed to be advocating exactly the sort of free-market, laissez-faire situation that has been at the very core of vaping’s success.

But alas, he works in public health and tobacco control. And so at some stage he was bound to let the mask slip. And when it did slip, we saw the unquenchable thirst of the public health industry to control other people’s lives and choices.

It was at this point that he introduced The Plan.

The plan included such bizarre, market-distorting wibble as “The World’s governments should hand out 180 days’ worth of whatever THR product suits them best.”

I guess it’s an admission at least that “Handing out unlimited amounts of patches and gum” has been an abject failure. But it still stinks on so many levels. He then swiftly moved on to some of the prohibitions required by his plan:

Vaping lounges? They’d have to go. Because The Children.

Sweet flavours? Oh no. Because The Children.

Advertising? Gotta go. Because The Children.

And then he delivered the punchline: “Basically what we’re looking for is a medicalisation of these products.”

It’s worth noting at this point that he was addressing the very swivel-eyed prohibitionists that are demanding public vaping, flavour and advertising bans in Sweden, and where the courts are deciding whether to prohibit ecigs completely as unlicensed medicinal products. It must have been music to their ears.

The global free-market for vaping products via bricks & mortar vape shops and online suppliers, with only the light touch of standard consumer regulations to ensure basic standards are met, is working perfectly. The last thing we need is yet another do-gooder from public health standing up and saying: “This is excellent. We must change it.”

The mask always slips.



10 thoughts on “The mask always slips

  1. I like that he admitted that they have become just like tobacco corps used to be and that TC should stop with the fake “science”. I see it as a great step towards real conversations between vapers and antz

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t deny he made some perceptive & welcome observations about THR & TC, but they only emphasise my point that the public and industry are perfectly capable of deciding what’s right for them, and that it should be none of public health’s business how we choose to live our lives. They can squabble & wibble all they like amongst themselves, but it’s high time that their tax funding, perceived and real power over our lives and choices, and their influence on legislators & the media alike must be stopped.


  2. Although I do agree with some of his points, I completely disagree with the whole flavor argument, having a flavor that suits your preference is of utmost importance, it is a huge factor in the process of quitting, having the flavor “Skittles” played a key roll in helping me quit smoking. I liked it more than I liked smoking. Any flavor that has the potential to help someone to quit smoking like it helped me shouldn’t be banned.

    There is groups that want the only flavors to be available is tobacco flavored, there is no tobacco in the liquid you would actually have to add flavor to it to make it taste like tobacco, flavorless juice almost has a sweet taste to it due to glycerin in the liquid.

    When I decided to give vaping a shot I decided I wanted to stay as far away from tobacco flavors as I can, I don’t want to associate vaping with smoking at all, I have never once “Vaped” a tobacco flavor and I never plan on doing so, if anything tobacco flavored liquid would could potentially be a link between vaping and smoking, if a teen tries a tobacco flavored liquid they may become curious about how a cigarette tastes, so instead how about banning flavors that are associated with tobacco use?

    Personally apart from setting industry standards on the liquid, making sure it is being manufactured in acceptable conditions and that flavors contain levels of potentially harmful chemicals within acceptable limits we should leave the industry alone.

    As the popularity of vaping has been growing smoking rates across the globe have been plummeting at a rate we’ve never seen before, by placing too many restriction at this point, by over regulating and over taxing them it will cause much more harm than good.

    With the open market we have right now with them they have been evolving at a explosive rate while there is issues with older technology used improperly by teens and people that don’t educate themselves properly there is also a lot of new technology emerging that makes them much safer. Temperature Control devices are exploding on the market now, being able to control the temperature can completely remove the possibility of the coil accidentally burning burning the liquid instead of converting it to a aerosol since you can set the temperature below the threshold of combustion for the liquid.

    Temperature Control, Short Circuit Protection, Liquid Manufacturers voluntarily removing liquids with DAP, new wicking technologies, the industry has solved a lot of the problems found in earlier studies on their own, a massive reduction of risk associated with ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) is already happening and very very little regulation is actually needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks for your comment – I agree entirely. Consumers and industry are able to demand and implement improvements to products far more quickly, efficiently and most importantly effectively than heavy-handed, state-imposed regulations ever could.


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