A few weeks ago, I’d read an article mentioning how Noel Gallagher berated a fellow musician over using an electronic cigarette, saying “Do me a favour mate, either have a proper one outside or don’t have one”. Noel’s very British expression of resentment got me thinking about encounters I’d had when using electronic cigarettes around smokers.
When I was first vaping, I was using a SafeCig product around a friend, a smoker, who told me jokingly not to bring my “SmugCig” around him. I could tell something about the name ‘SafeCig’ implying that e-cigarettes aren’t harmful like tobacco cigarettes upset him a little. Other friends had similar reactions and I got the sense that they, as smokers, in some way resented the ‘artificiality’ of e-cigarettes, like they (or I) were trying to be something they were not.
This inkling of resentment over a little battery powered device got me thinking, what other groups might harbor resentment towards e-cigarettes? Now, resentment is a strong word. It implies a sort of unsaid bitterness or negativity towards something, and even a motive for negative actions. And that is hard to peg that on anyone- some of this post is speculation and should be taken as such.
But with the growing evidence supporting the benefits and potential of vaping, I started to wonder how much of the adversity e-cigarettes face was based on an emotional response versus a rational one.
Much like the situations I’d found myself in above, you’ll find a few smokers who criticize e-cigs before trying them. They may say anything from “those blow up, don’t you know?” to “you don’t know what’s in those”, both of which make your head hurt when you consider what we know about e-cigarettes and what we know (or still don’t know) about cigarettes. These criticisms have always made me wonder if it’s actual uncertainty about e-cigarettes, or an immediate dismissal because of a resentment over the artificiality of e-cigarettes.
Or perhaps it’s just because these smokers have already failed with so many products that claimed to be a fool-proof way to quit, that they simply don’t believe the hype anymore. Regardless of their disposition, it’s our duty as vapers to try and educate smokers and these criticisms can afford a nice opportunity to present the truth.
At top of mind are some people who have quit smoking ‘cold turkey’, without any aids at all. Much like your elder telling you a story of “When I Was Your Age”, some ex-smokers may tell you the story of how they quit with a tinge of superiority in the tone. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect and admiration for going ‘cold turkey’ and being successful at it. My own father did it, so naturally in this instance I got a double-dose of “When I Was Your Age”.
Sometimes these statements come with a further criticism of e-cigarettes. To these ex-smokers, the idea of not quitting nicotine might seem outrageous or the fact that you’re using something that looks like a cigarette to quit smoking might seem absurd. But part of me wonders whether this attitude comes from a resentment that they had to give up something they loved and with vaping, you don’t. And again, I truly feel that anyone who has quit smoking should be proud of themselves, except for when it comes to criticizing someone else for doing it a different way.
The Public Health Community
This is the group that may be the hardest to name, but it must be said. These are doctors, regulatory officials and scientists who are far more educated than I and have spent their careers working in fields built around logic and deduction. To say they are motivated as a group by resentment is at best a bad generalization. When it comes to adversity towards e-cigs, uncertainty, conflicts of interest and simple lack of education on e-cigs could all be to blame. But is it possible that this adversity from members of the public health community and regulatory bodies could come from a resentment of e-cigarettes themselves?
I think so. If I had spent my career in public health fighting smoking through the ‘accepted’ methods, I might find the suggestion that e-cigarettes are more effective than any current method offensive and in a way that I would have trouble putting into words. I would ask myself if it were really possible that this could be the answer, this simple battery powered device invented by a Chinese pharmacist. It might even make me feel as though everything I had worked for was somehow undermined by this new, foreign product that wasn’t promoted by myself or my colleagues.
It’s not like Hon Lik stumbled onto some secret concept in developing the first e-cigarette. Those in public health understand why cigarettes are addictive. Nicotine inhalers have existed for years (see video right) that, in a way, show the public health community has always known the importance of addressing the multiple facets of tobacco addiction. But this one, this electronic cigarette, does it better than anything that has ever been widely approved of by the public health community.
To be sure, there are plenty of factors to consider as to why some in public health and regulation time and again choose to reject the evidence in support of vaping and instead drag out the same old, tired and debunked evidence against it. But part of me has to wonder whether some in the public health community may have first read that 2009 FDA study with a bit of schadenfreude in their hearts.