Most readers of this blog will know that, while I’m a user and huge fan of Heat not Burn products, I’m mainly a vaper. When I quit smoking I used an early e-cig starter kit, and I’ve now been vaping for more than five years. In that time I’ve used a lot of different e-cigs, learned to make my own coils and e-liquids, and written thousands of words to advocate for vaping. I go to pro-vaping conferences and know most of the UK’s prominent vaping advocates. Vaping is a thing that I do.
It’s not the only thing I do, though. I don’t see vaping as the only acceptable alternative to smoking, the way public health nuts think nicotine patches are the only acceptable alternative. I use Swedish snus, when I can get it. I have a couple of tins of snuff around. I like HnB products. I even have a cigar a couple of times a year.
So I like vaping, but I’m open to anything else that gives the pleasure of smoking but eliminates most of the risks – and if someone is willing to accept the risks and continue smoking, I’m squarely behind their right to do that too. I am definitely not one of those born-again vapers who thinks all smokers need to switch right now, and if any smokers do want to move to something safer I’m not going to tell them they need to move to an e-cig. If they’d prefer to buy snus online, or find an old-style tobacconist and stock up on snuff, or get themselves an iQOS, I have no problem with that at all.
The circular firing squad
That’s my philosophy, then – a tolerant one that’s mostly interested in making sure people have access to the products they want. So I wasn’t too please the other day when Dick Puddlecote sent me a link to a YouTube video from a popular UK vaping channel.
The first half of this video seems to have been provoked by an article in Vapouround, a British vaping magazine. Early this year the magazine carried a two-page feature on iQOS and how it features in PMI’s plans to phase out cigarettes from the UK market. Personally I don’t see any thing controversial about that. Yes, it’s a vaping magazine. That’s fine; iQOS is also a vapour product. It creates its vapour from heated tobacco instead of aerosolised liquid, but that’s a technical difference; the basic principle is the same.
Obviously that’s not what the star of the video thought, though. In fact he launched into a stunningly ignorant half-hour rant against iQOS, PMI, and HnB in general. And when I say stunningly ignorant, I’m not kidding. According to him, a Heet is just a cigarette that’s been coated with propylene glycol. In his opinion, using an iQOS “still qualifies as smoking” just because Heets contain tobacco. This is obviously total bollocks; by that logic using snus also counts as smoking, and do I really need to explain how ridiculous that is?
Ignorance is bad, but what really staggered me was the level of venom aimed at Philip Morris – who the culprit seems to think is an actual person involved in the sale of iQOS, by the way, rather than the long-dead proprietor of a small tobacconist in Victorian London. The video is peppered with delusional ramblings like “Phil, come to the office and have a coffee”. Frankly, it sounds unhinged.
Fake moral high ground
I’ll be blunt here: I’m fucking sick of certain vapers getting on their high horse about the tobacco industry. None of us whinged and moralised about the tobacco industry when we smoked, did we? Oh no; we all loved the tobacco industry back then, because they sold us things we liked. They’re still doing that, because millions of people like iQOS and Glo.
I don’t want to hear any crap about how the tobacco industry lied about the dangers of smoking either. That was decades ago, and the people who did it are all retired and mostly dead. Philip Morris is a company – a sign on an office and a name on a bank account. It isn’t an actual guy named Phil who wants to sell iQOS so he can buy another Bentley. The company is just a legal entity that lets people work together. It doesn’t bear any guilt for what people who worked for it in the 1970s did, so trying to smear iQOS because some guy lied about Marlboro causing cancer 50 years ago is just stupid.
The tobacco companies aren’t going to shut down tomorrow and only a moron would want them to. Apart from anything else, if Philip Morris and BAT go down, millions of ordinary people’s pension funds will go down with them. Do you seriously think it’s worth causing massive poverty just because you don’t like iQOS? No, you don’t – so why the vitriolic hatred of a business that’s just trying to give its customers what they want?
Let’s be realistic here: If reduced-risk products are going to be made widely available, the tobacco industry is going to play a role in making that happen. A lot of people simply don’t want to go into a vape shop staffed by tattooed people with hipster beards and ear gauges, and spend their money on Chinese brands they’ve never heard of. They’d much rather buy something that says Marlboro on the box, because that’s the taste they’re looking for. Yes, I get it; you hate the taste of tobacco now and think everyone should vape 3mg/ml mango sorbet. The problem is most smokers don’t agree with you. They want Marlboro, and unless you can give them an e-liquid that tastes like a burning Marlboro – which you can’t; it’s been tried often enough – they’re not interested. E-cigs work for many smokers, but not for all, and why should smokers be denied a safer alternative that does work for them just because you’re puffed up with moral indignation about the people who made it?
I don’t care if you don’t like Heat not Burn products. I don’t even care if you think they’re morally wrong. What I do care about is that you’re making angry, incoherent videos attacking reduced-harm products, and in the process doing public health’s work for them. If you’re ranting about how HnB is a cunning plot by the evil tobacco companies, you’re basically Stan Glantz. iQOS, and other products like it, are designed to do exactly the same thing as e-cigs are – give smokers a safer alternative. That’s something we should all be able to support. If you don’t like Heat not Burn products then just don’t buy them; there’s no need for all these tantrums.