The Argvargen Vaping Awards 2016

I’m getting a time machine for Christmas this year. I know this because I’ve already did got it, or something. So I was able to travel back to today to write this blogpost. But not before I took a trip to December next year to witness the Argvargen Vaping Awards for 2016, which were/are/will have was be sponsored and presented by our new vaping overlords – the Medical Licensing Agency of Sweden, Läkemedelsverket.

So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Läkemedelsverket’s Vaping Expert in 2016, Imma Pööritan-Tåsser:

“Ladies, Gentlemen, and alkoloid-addled degenerates, welcome to our prestigious awards, celebrating the best in e-cigarette and vapour technology! The first category is:

Best RDA

Woah there, nicotine fiends! I don’t think you understand where we, the Holy Verket of Läkemedels, are coming from. There will be no building or rebuilding under our juristiction thank you very much. Who do you think we are, IKEA?

And dripping is a non-starter mmm-kay? Our good friends at the laughably self-declared “independent” think-tank Tobaccyfactoids told us that just one drop of this stuff, this devil’s-own-sperm of a liquid that you insist on vapourising, could wipe out every pine forest in Sweden, and will turn our children into ABBA-hating free-thinkers.

We will build the atomiser for you, we’ll drip the broth of Beelzebub into it and then we’ll weld it shut, before attaching it firmly to a battery and wrapping it in the kind of packaging that befits an overpriced and ineffective cure for your frankly pathetic weakness.

Best RTA

The best tank is our approved tank, because it is tiny. And because we med-regged it. You can’t get better than that (No really, you can’t. If it were better than that, we’d ban it). And of course it’s not rebuildable. Haven’t you listened to a word I’ve said?

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Tanks don’t get any better than this OK? And anyone who says they do must be some sort of shill for Big Vape.

 

Best New Product

Well this is obvious. It’s the one we approve as a licensed medicine. It wins because it’s the best. And because there aren’t any others. Because we banned them. When did a banned product ever win best anything? You see? You’re starting to get the hang of our logic now. You don’t have to worry about which product is right for you, because we already know which one it is. We’ve saved you so much time, so a little gratitude wouldn’t go amiss.

Best Big Battery Device

We’ve decided to combine this category with the small and medium-sized battery categories. Because as some of you may be realising by now, we’ve banned everything except for this tiny-weeny piss-poor battery device. Isn’t it great? It’s so under-powered and ineffective we felt able to give it a medicinal license. And several awards. That’s how good it is.

Best Mech Mod

Which wag left this category in? Aren’t we the class joker? Get me a corset Göran, I think my sides are splitting with laughter.

 

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This isn’t actually the one that’s allowed. That would mean you had a choice. You don’t deserve choice.

 

Best Flavour

It’s been proven that flavours, and in particular the almost infinite range of flavours available on the open market, are one of the key features behind the success of vaping for those wishing to discover an alternative to smoking lit tobacco. So we’ve put a stop to that. You can have one. Maybe two at a push. Wait….what’s that?…..Oh, Public Health Minister Gabriel Wikström just banned menthol. One it is then. Which makes it the winner by default: the winner of the best flavour to abstain from smoking lit tobacco is….<opens envelope> The Flavour of Smoking Lit Tobacco!

We think you’ll like tobacco flavour: after all, you’ve taken the decision to try an alternative to smoking lit tobacco. So we’ll help you make the switch by letting you savour something that is designed to taste exactly the same as what you’ve decided to get away from. Unfortunately our approved manufacturer has failed miserably, and what you’ll actually get is a pale imitation of the real thing, leaving you with a sense of immense disappointment, regret and longing for the familiar taste you’ve become so accustomed to over the years.

Best Eliquid

Don’t you go worrying your pretty little head about that. We’ll put it in for you, and you’ll like it. Or at least enough of you will tolerate it for us to continue to scrape through clinical trials without totally embarrassing ourselves. If you really can’t bear it, quit moaning and get some fruit-flavoured gum from GSK. Or go back to smoking, you filthy, unsocial addicts.

So that concludes the awards for 2016. We hop..hang on! Where is everyone? Where are you going? Don’t tell me you’re all smoking again. Already? Wait! Try this! I approved it myself…”

2016: the year that Swedish vapers left the building, and went back outside for a smoke.

 

Merry Christmas to all dedicated and advocating vapers, snusers and smokers, wherever you are. Let’s hope 2016 works out a bit better than many are expecting.

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“What’s is it Charlie? Not happy with our crappy device? We don’t care, it’s med-regged so that’s all you’re getting. Sweden reserves the right to fuck with your freedom of choice until you learn to obey and conform.”

 

 

 

Think of the Children! (Reprise)

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It’s nearly a year since I wrote this piece about under-18 vaping in Sweden, highlighting the responsible behaviour of both a vape shop and a parent. I also linked to what I still consider to be the most pragmatic and understanding article written on this subject.

The reason I wanted to return to it is two-fold: firstly, CAN (the national body responsible for providing statistics on drug, alcohol and tobacco use in Sweden) have released their annual report; and also because I was intrigued by the SR (the state national radio) report on their findings, and how these stats will likely be interpreted by the enemies of vaping in particular, and harm-reduction in general.

So let’s start with how it was reported: More youth are trying e-cigarettes and one of the reasons could be that anyone can buy them

Apart from the fact that they ought to sack the sub-editor for that less than snappy headline, they are implying that both of these facts are a BAD THING. But as I’ve documented previously, one of the benefits of having a wide availability of THR products is their prophylactic effect: if young people can choose between two options, the majority are smart enough to choose the safer one. (Although it must be noted that Snus clearly appeals more to Swedish males than females for a multitude of reasons, not least the taste, the image, Swedish culture and tradition of use, and the anti-THR propaganda of the past 30 or so years).

Young people experiment. So if more young people are experimenting with vaping, and fewer are experimenting with smoking, surely public health bodies and the media alike would see this as a GOOD THING? Let’s have a look at the stats:

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Well now. That’s interesting. Very interesting indeed. We only have two years’ worth of data to go on for ever-use of e-cigarettes (and on first inspection I couldn’t find and data on daily or even regular use), but it appears that as one goes up, the other goes down. It’s also noticeable that unlike the heavily male-oriented prophylactic effect we see with snus, this seems to be a largely gender-neutral phenomenon.

To return to the Swedish Radio website’s epic of a headline, is this GOOD THING a direct result of the fact that “anyone can buy” e-cigarettes? To be honest, I doubt that’s the case at the moment, though that’s not to say it wouldn’t have had an effect in the long-term. The reason being that despite all the scaremongering headlines in the media, e-cigarette retailers simply aren’t that prevalent in Sweden, and those that exist appear to be selling responsibly.

One of the results of the ongoing court case to ban ecigs from sale entirely is that there are very few retail outlets, since few people were prepared to take the risk of investing in a business that could be closed down at any given moment. And it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if over 20% of young people are still experimenting with smoking, it’s not actually necessary for them to walk into shops in order to try things. So under 18s (and especially under-16s) are no doubt getting access via the same methods they get cigarettes – nicking them from parents and older siblings, and from mates who have already nicked them.

The headline invites the inevitable outrage from the usual suspects that, as the law currently stands, a 10 year-old could walk into a shop and buy an ecig (assuming they could actually find a shop that sells them of course). But Sweden only has itself (or more accurately its Medicines Licensing Agency) to blame for the current state of affairs: this court case has been going on for over two years. And until it’s resolved, the Government is unable to introduce legislation prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes – to anyone, of any age. Don’t you just love unintended consequences?

Since it’s unlikely that anyone will ever dare to analyse the 6-7 year experiment that has resulted from inadvertantly allowing young adults free (though not widespread) retail access to e-cigarettes in Sweden, it will be hard to determine the overall impact (if any). What we can say for sure is that widespread use of e-cigarettes has happened, and that just as in the UK and US, it has coincided with several years of large declines in both occasional and daily smoking amongst the same groups of young adults. What remains to be seen is the effect on youth smoking rates for 2016/17, after either the total retail ban under medicinal regulation or the EU TPD takes effect.

UPDATE

I’ve tracked down the CAN smoking rates for 16 and 18 year-olds in Sweden. The vertical columns represent years 2011-2015 (they messed around with data-gathering methods in 2012, but this doesn’t appear to have affected the patterns), and the horizontal ones are: Male Smokers, Female Smokers, Male Daily Smokers, Female Daily Smokers.

16 year olds who smoke and smoke every day 2011 to 2015 Male and Female

16 year-olds

18 year olds who smoke and smoke every day 2011 to 2015 Male and Female

18 year-olds

 

Sources: CAN Skolelevers Drogvanor 2015

The Tobacco Products Directive: worst. sequel. ever.

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Ban that. And……yep, ban that. Because children.

 

I had a good chuckle earlier today after a friend sent me a link to the latest edition of Purse-lipped Puritan, with its December centrefold Miss Sweden:

 

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I’d have left it at that were it not for the fact that I spotted the name Martina Pötschke-Langer on the advisory board.

I was well aware that these two worked closely together at the extremist, fanatical end of the Tobacco Control anti-harm reduction spectrum. After all, when Public Health Sweden hosted a conference with the PH Minister Gabriel Wikström earlier this year, the presentation on ecigarettes was led by the wibbling moonbattery of Martina’s DKFZ outfit. As you can imagine, they were simply gushing with praise for this harm-reduction revolution.

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Oh. Surely they must have had something nice to say?

 

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Ah. A begrudging admission that respiratory improvements were likely, assuming you don’t die of all the scary but implausible, highly unlikely and/or impossible stuff they focused on.

This is what really boils my piss about these cross-border scaremongering initiatives; the way the junk science & scaremongering, which is ultimately intended to influence and coerce politicians and public alike, spreads like the cancer they pretend they are trying to prevent. The anti-vaping Powerpoint assault gets exported to Sweden, while a quick glance at Pötschke-Langer’s documents on this site highlights how decades of anti-snus propaganda and lies can be neatly bundled together and exported to Germany. It’s one of the worst pieces of anti-THR drivel ever created, and that’s a pretty competitive field.

Little wonder then that other organisations who are represented in this group, such as ASH Ireland and UKCTAS, are so woefully uninformed.  They’ve been subject to a relentless barrage of blood-curdling Nordic Noir, courtesy of the pens of Stockholm’s Karolinska University researchers. International prohibitionists play a never-ending game of chinese whispers, and the junk science gets ever more exaggerated, abused and exploited with every border it crosses.

The EU snus ban was a triumph for hysterical fanatics, who succeeded in spreading the junk science of a small group of researchers with highly dubious motives, and by provoking the knee-jerk instincts of uninformed and more often than not misinformed politicians to “be seen to be doing something”.

If you haven’t read Christopher Snowdon’s excellent account already, treat yourself to a Christmas present and discover more about the remarkable series of events that led to the ban. The parallels between that and the current war on vaping (by the same protagonists) is uncannily familiar:

Flavours!

Gateway!

Nicotine!

Poison!

Not a proven cessation product!

THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

The implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016 will uphold the original EU snus ban, as well as introducing a raft of wholly arbitrary bans, restrictions and unnecessary and prohibitive regulations on e-cigarettes. As sequels go, it is nothing more than a pale imitation. What makes it as scary as the original is that they believe they can get away with it again.

 

Dame Sally’s Blooz

Dick Puddlecote’s astonishing revelations about the UK Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies earlier this evening have me lost for words. Thankfully, Fergus Mason has plenty to spare on the subject, so I urge you to read both superb posts. There’s also more on the Ashtray blog.

The information released after an FOI request paints a gloomy picture of Dame Sally, and asks a number of questions about anti-vaping campaigner Martin Mckee. It also throws the spotlight on the actions of the Faculty of Public Health and its new President, John Middleton (or Dr Blooz as he prefers to be known by on twitter). According to the blogpost, he appears to have set his mouth organ down to act as Sally mouthpiece in an effort to keep Public Health England’s increasingly positive position on vaping silent.

One thing’s for sure – there is going to be a heap of pressure from the millions of vaping members of the public to spend the >150 hours required to approve the release of all 3000 correspondences. We have a right to know.

In the meantime, I’m going to write an arrangement of Sally’s Blues. For harmonica, cantata choir and Belfast castrato.

 

Big Health’s unlikely tobacco shills

I’ll begin by stating what used to be the obvious – I don’t mind if people smoke.

By which I don’t just mean I’m happy for friends and strangers to smoke in my house, my car or my place of work, and that I was happy about this before, during and after the period during which I smoked myself. I mean that their decision to smoke, or not, is theirs. And theirs alone.

It used to be an obvious statement. If you’ll allow me to drift into foreign for a moment, Laissez-faire was de rigeur. But not anymore.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few decades, you’ll have been made painfully aware of the ever-increasing cacophony of intolerance for personal lifestyle choices. Finger-pointing prodnosery and self-righteous faux outrage concerning what all of us used to (and most of us still do) consider perfectly acceptable preferences. Whether those choices be what we like to eat, drink or inhale, the relentless chorus of disapproving tuts, oh-no-you-don’ts and stop-that-right-now-or-elses has reached a crescendo.

And the message – whether we hear it from our friends, our colleagues, our governments or in the media, has the same single source: the choir of sour-faced, holier-than-thou tax-funded puritans and charlatans that gather under the “public health” umbrella. But you knew that already. So what’s my point?

Almost without exception, the anti-choice pro-ban crowd blame the “dark arts” of marketing & advertising for “promoting” drinking or smoking or enjoying a soft drink, or whatever their bête noir happens to be in any given week. They have convinced themselves that their fellow humans are mind-numbingly stupid. And that these inferior brains are therefore incapable of making rational decisions.

Yet this smoker made a rational decision:

 

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And look! Another smoker, making another rational decision:

 

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So, I think we can all agree that deciding that vaping is more harmful to one’s own health than smoking is, on balance, a poor decision. But it is rational: the newspapers are full of swivel-eyed Professors, Doctors and academics, who have spent the last few years as motormouth rent-a-quotes, busily scaring the shit out of people with tales of popcorn lung, poisonings, explosions, anti-freeze and (still the barrel-scraping leader in a field of scaremongering junk-science pronouncements), 10 times the cancer risk of smoking.

It’s entirely rational for a smoker or former smoker to read the relentless drivel in the media and come to the conclusion that vaping is indeed more harmful than smoking – after all, why would these “professional” people keep going on about it? So for the latest “scare someone back to smoking” debacle, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I give you exhibits A and B:

 

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A mop-haired muppet, earlier

 

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Chippy, riffing away to himself, yesterday

 

When tobacco controllers, fueled by attention-seeking academics, want to put the boot into ecigs their narrative is swiftly gobbled up by a click-hungry media grateful for the scary headlines. It makes little difference that within hours of the latest drivel hitting the airwaves it gets ripped to shreds by experts and vapers alike – as we see for the diacetyl study here, here, and here. Not enough? More here.

It makes little difference because the damage has already been done, and another ten thousand or 100,000 smokers reassure themselves that vaping is bad news, and it’s better to stick with the devil they know. Who knows how many vapers have already been scared back to smoking? One day someone will calculate it, and history will judge those who opposed vaping with the venom they deserve. In the meantime, those who wish to destroy the market for reduced-harm products continue to take perverse delight in claiming that vaping isn’t as effective as people think. And the funding just keeps on rolling in.

So we have arrived at the nadir of the tobacco control industry’s sorry existence. We have reached a point where the prime driver of cigarette consumption in developed countries is not the traditional Scooby Doo villains – that is to say “evil” tobacco companies and their ads, which were banned years ago. Nor is it the childish curiosity of old, since the rates at which young adults are taking up smoking are at a historic low, besides which many young adults are doing what young adults do in Sweden when faced with two nicotine delivery options – they’re picking the safer one.

The prime driver of cigarette consumption right now is those despicable creatures in the public health and tobacco control industries, whose daily streams of scaremongering drivel cause those who might otherwise have switched to vaping to make the “rational” decision to keep, and even return to, smoking.

As I said, I don’t mind if people choose to smoke, and I don’t believe in coercing or forcing people to do otherwise. It’s their choice.

But Stan, Simon, Martin et al have made it their life’s mission to stop people smoking. They’ve made lucrative careers from demanding that smoking and smokers are put to the sword. It’s a delicious irony that they’ve become their own worst enemy.

 

Oh Sweden

I know. It’s been an age. So by way of an apology for the lack of blogposts, here’s a quick update on the state of play for tobacco and harm reduction in Sweden.

The “government” have recently published a Big Document about the fresh hell they plan to impose on those long-suffering folk who just want to get on with their lives in peace, namely smokers, snusers and vapers.

(I put the word government in inverted commas because the country is currently being ruled by a gang of chancers who make the Keystone Cops look competent. For example, after inviting half the world to make their way to Sweden in search of a better life, the warm, fuzzy hug of gesture politicking is unravelling fast. Not only are they now discussing whether or not to close the Öresund bridge that links Sweden to Denmark, but in the absence of actual, proper buildings in which to house new arrivals, migrants are being asked to reside in makeshift tents. In a Swedish Winter.)

Anyway, I digress. The Big Document.

It’s a sort of pre-TPD statement, with a fairy dust sprinkling of prohibitionist policies and proposals that would make all but the most hardcore puritan statists cringe.

It’s been put forward by Public Health Minister Gabriel Wikström, the 28 year-old former president of the Socialist party’s youth wing. Even in his sharp ministerial suit, he still looks and sounds like a teenager who won a competition to be Minister For The Day on the back of a cereal packet.

The Big Document appears to be his brainchild, although a large chunk of it is simply him trying to take credit for policies dictated by the EU TPD. The word brainchild also implies that he has a functioning brain. Since every sentence he utters either parrots the wet dreams of Tobaksfakta and other state-sponsored fanatics, or includes the words “Health Inequalities”, the jury is still out on whether he’s just another mindless prohibitionist puppet of the lobby groups.

The Big Document is full of those smart ideas like bans, warnings and restrictions so beloved by politicians and joyless pressure groups the world over. Menthol ban? Check. Plans to trample all over Sweden’s press/print freedoms – a core pillar of its constitution – by jumping on the widely ridiculed plain packaging bandwagon? Check. A vast array of proposed outdoor smoking bans? Check (and being Sweden, these will presumably include vaping, because the poor poppets in tobacco control and government get “confused” easily). Telling consumers that snus causes harm? Check.

Wait. What?

Sad but true. As Atakan Befrits reported here, something is indeed rotten in the state of Sweden. It really is frightening to think that as the rest of the world wakes up to the potential of reduced risk consumer products, Sweden is trying to pretend that it hasn’t got a perfectly good one already. Maybe they think that if they promote risks that aren’t there, then it will make all those calls to lift the EU snus ban disappear quietly into the night.

Since many of those who read this blog are vapers, you might be wondering what plans they have for ecigs and vapour products. The answer is, they don’t have any.

That’s not quite true, but almost. You see, the government are sitting pretty right now. The court case brought by the Medicines Licensing Regulator to ban everything under…err…medicinal licensing regulations is still in limbo. So until it’s resolved then ecigs are in limbo too. I expect a decision will be reached soon. In fact I’ll put money on it being just before May 2016. Because as the only reference to ecigs in the entire Big Document states, the government have the TPD ace up their sleeve. Which allows them to ban ecigs and vapour products under medicinal licensing regulations should they wish to ignore the consumer regs aspect of directive. How handy.

So for everyone fighting the TPD, keep on fighting, and please spare a thought for Swedish vapers. Short of a miracle win for Totally Wicked in the ECJ, I’m sorry to say that the vile consumer reg elements of the TPD is currently our best-case scenario.

UPDATE

Confirmation that the government, along with the Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) are planning to ban vaping in outdoor public places:

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Think of the children! (No, really – THINK!)

I was going to write about the Swedish antz group A Non Smoking Generation, and their ill-conceived plan to elicit 2,000 emails to bombard, bully and shame the actor Daniel Radcliffe into stopping smoking. Of course they say it’s all positive, and have even come up with a new piece of tobacco control industry Newspeak – they’re going to “Peer-pressure” him apparently. Which isn’t bullying, harassment, cyber-stalking, crass or liable to backfire in any way. Oh no.

But I thought I’d leave that subject, and the vaping mice farce (since it’s already been so comprehensively de-bunked & skewered by Tom Pruen, and by this guest post on The Redhead‘s blog, and by The Underdog.)

Instead I’m going to tell you a story. A true story. About a little vape shop in a small town in southern Sweden.

The shop is run by Pamela and Christian. They are one of the few bricks & mortar vape shops in Sweden. They are brave and intelligent people – they have just opened a new shop in their town despite the uncertain future of the Swedish vape industry. The ban on sales that was passed in 2013 after the Swedish Pharmaceutical Authority (I know!) took a vendor to court is still effectively in place, but vendors are permitted to trade while the case is heard in the appeal courts.

Pamela recently gave a talk at a London ecig trade summit, and both her and Christian were clearly delighted to meet Dr. Farsalinos and others who were present to discuss the science, the law, the trade – like I said they’re intelligent people. What they are definitely not are the kind of predatory bastards that the public health wibblers would have you believe are at the forefront of the vape industry, luring innocent children into a life of addled nicotine slavery.

So the story begins in their new shop.

A 16 year old lad came into the shop – and was instantly recognised. He’d been in the week before to purchase eliquid, and was refused because he had no ID to prove was over 18 (which, obviously, he’s not).

But the lad was accompanied by his father. Who proceeded to buy the eliquid for him. What we have here, Junior Health Minister Jane Ellison MP, is a case of proxy purchase. The kind of proxy purchase that you plan to outlaw, with the full support of ASH and other nannying fuckwits tobacco control and public health groups.

This is a case of a vape shop acting responsibly, a 16 year old acting responsibly (by asking his father to accompany him to the shop to make the purchase), and a father acting responsibly by recognising the difference between vaping and smoking lit tobacco, and by assisting him to choose the safer alternative. Indeed the father admitted as much:

“If he’s not allowed to vape then he’ll just smoke instead, as I have for nearly 25 years.”

In the same week, Pamela & Christian were visited by an irate parent who wanted to return an ecig that their son had ordered online using their credit card. Naturally, they refunded the purchase.

I wonder how long it took for that lad to get hold of a pack of smokes instead. His parents really ought to read this excellent article by Professor Lynn Kozlowski of the University of Buffalo. It oozes evidence-based pragmatism and common sense.