I am the Vaping Extremist

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I had the pleasure of attending a conference today presented by The Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy. Kevin and Matt both attended with me. We went as advocates for electronic cigarettes, but at the same time we were very interested in hearing why they are so opposed to them. We knew that Ellen Hahn, who is the Director of this organization and the Clean Indoor Air Partnership, would be the lead speaker and representative of this spring conference. As many of you know, we have had interactions with her before, mainly the attempted cancelation of our Lexington VapeMeet.

I want to state right off the bat, that this blog is my opinion and experience, not necessarily the same as other attendees.

We noticed immediately that we were required to sign an agreement that we would not use any of their material presented without consent from the organization. We also realized there was security positioned in the hall around the conference rooms. We spoke with this guard and asked if they were asked to be there due to our presence. This was confirmed and was followed up with the statement that there were supposed to be more of us and we were considered extremists. We were also expected to be vaping and blowing it in their faces when we know that this is a smoke free facility. In my opinion, they were hoping to have a reason to throw us out and prove the point that we are ‘extreme’.

The conference began with a couple lectures from various representatives of organizations supporting the smoke-free policy. The second speaker, Jodi Radke with the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, took the podium to discuss the North Dakota indoor smoking ban and the struggles they went through to get it passed. One of the statements that of course caught my attention, was that electronic cigarettes were included in the ban because it is too hard to enforce the smoking ban when they look so similar to cigarettes. It was also claimed that on the Facebook page (I am not aware of the title of the group), there were 70-90 comment posts aggressively arguing with anything that was presented on this page. These vapers argued with everything that the local smoke-free advocates tried to post as proof against the ecig devices.

Throughout the morning sessions, audience members were allowed to give statements and/or questions. One person stood up to say that they ignore and write off the opposition to the smoke-free policies, because it is a waste of time to listen to them. I have to say the most memorable person to stand up to give their opinion, was a man who said that he attended our Lexington VapeMeet last year and attendees were opposing his opinion aggressively and we in such represent ourselves as “wife beaters”. I would never claim that all ecig users are courteous and professional when handling situations such as this, but there are some who are passionate and would do anything to get their point across. There is obviously a problem with this approach, but we can’t control the vaping population and how they handle the situations they are put in. I’m pretty sure there are these people in every type of movement, including the banning of guns, the disagreements with gay marriage, how to handle terrorism, etc.

During the lunch break, Ellen Hahn was presented with “The Nanny” award from her peers for her efforts in smoke free advocacy.

Starting in the afternoon there were four smaller break-out sessions that you could choose from. We chose to attend “Covering Emerging Products: Alerting Policymakers” by Ellen Hahn. Oh man, did we pick the right one! I can take a wild guess that they weren’t happy to see us, as the guard was positioned 2 feet from the door. She began by listing the different smokeless tobacco products that are known and advertised. We all know what they are, but as expected electronic cigarettes was the main point of this session. Ellen wanted to focus on the harm of ecigs, including the ads, such as “doctor approvals”, and the possibility of the appeal they might have on children due to their bright colored packaging. She posted pictures of them in packaging that looked like they might be trying to look like candy, especially having different flavor options. There are also “dual use” concerns. She points right at Matt and continues to say, that they may have helped him quit, and congrats, but will it do that for the population as a whole? She stated after that, “In KY, it’s useless to discuss smokeless tobacco products”.

There was a list of “combustible products”, including, machines to assist in rolling your own cigarettes, small cigars (with 6x the toxins of regular cigarettes), Hookahs, the new Green Smoke Hookah, and electronic cigarettes. Ecigs were the main focus claiming “the majority look like cigarettes”, they have a “heating element” and the effects of “second-hand vapor”.  We were also told the ecigs have “tobacco in them, not just water vapor and it smells and looks like tobacco smoke”. The discussion went on to another topic that Ellen stated, “laws should include heated products”, so that there is no confusion that ecigs are undoubtedly included in the bans.

More quotes by Ellen include:

— There are “1700 chemicals found in tobacco” and very few studies on ecigs, but we’re “learning everyday” and “don’t know a lot”.

— She is “concerned that it is called water vapor”.

— “You don’t know what you’re getting” and it’s like “brewing beer in a bathtub!”.

— “The marketers and companies are taking advantage of gaps in regulation.”

— “They may pollute the air less, but still do… they don’t know.” (pollute less than cigarettes)

— “People get addicted with dual-use.”

— The “best practice” is to wait for evidence through science.

— She also stated that there have yet to be studies to prove it can be used as a cessation device.

Included in some of the slides for this topic were, a Casaa advertisement, Vape Magazine, a picture of David Letterman with Catherine Heigel, and a picture of the EcigAdvanced logo with the poster for the Lexington VapeMeet.

A man, I’m not sure his name or qualifications, spoke up during the open discussion and brought up ecigs and became a little heated in his speech. He said something along the lines, that the advertisements/images on our site, EcigAdvanced, glorifies e-cigarettes or vaping. We try to make it look really attractive and not represent it as a cessation tool. I now have a hard time remembering what exactly was said, because the little voice in my head was screaming “LIES LIES LIES”. (I’m sure Ellen knew this was coming.)

In closing, I wanted to end on a positive note. We were approached by State Representative Susan Westrom and invited to meet with her sometime to present our information on electronic cigarettes. She also thanked us for our presence at the conference. We spoke with about a dozen of the attendees from various organizations, privately, about our stance on ecigs including our advocacy of their success and our position on fighting to exempt them from the indoor smoke-free state wide ban. We handed out flyers with the bullet points of studies and facts surrounding ecig use. There was a very positive reply, including many questions, and piqued interest from most of these individuals. I had a speaker sitting next to me that I had the privilege of engaging for 20 minutes, about our presence and our cause. He took our flyer and, I believe, proceeded to research the information provided. There was a representative of another county who came to tell her us her story about her sister switching to ecigs for health reasons. She stated she was aware that they may not be 100% safe, but she’s happy her sister could quit the use of real cigarettes.

I am so happy I was able to attend this conference to hear what The Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy group had to say about ecigs and their thoughts on everything surrounding this policy.

A big thank you to Ellen Hahn for allowing us to attend! (even if it was under guard)


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