Still Blowing Smoke, or Not?

As some of us are comfortably sitting around on the East Coast, puffing on our vapes uninterruptedly and watching Jenny McCarthy try to sell subpar big tobacco e-cigs on TV (because everyone knows Jenny McCarthy is an aspirational figure and thus an excellent brand rep), some vapers on the West Coast are finding that vaping is starting to stir up a lot of trouble. I’m sure by now you’ve already seen the California stillblowingsmoke.org ads and probably laughed at how ridiculous they are, but you might not have seen the vaping-supporter counter to those ads: notblowingsmoke.org.

Launched soon after the first showing of the ads, the website picks out the most glaring misrepresentation in the ad, namely that vapers are not still blowing smoke, and turns it on California’s alarmist campaign. While not officially associated with the American Vaping Association, CASAA (the customers’ vaping association), or SFATA (the vaping industry trade association), the website clearly arises out of the same community. It’s a welcome sight to see; vapers are finally coming together to fight misinformation not just with indignation, but also with a collection of incontrovertible facts.

And some of the facts presented on notblowingsmoke.org are actually quite illuminating. For one, the website has a good compilation of pro-vaping scientific literature, which is a good place to look if you are looking to read the studies directly rather than some reporter’s poor interpretation thereof. While the list is not exhaustive, it’s a good beginning; for example, it talks about most of the studies I’ve ever discussed on this blog. Notblowingsmoke.org also points out that the vaping industry is on the way to becoming a significant industry in California, with huge numbers of employees depending it for their sustenance. Where the website gets more ambitious is when it begins describing the economic incentives behind the State of California’s opposition to vaping. According to notblowingsmoke.org, California’s poor financial situation is a primary driver behind the state’s opposition to vaping, as vaping directly threatens state revenue by decreasing revenue from cigarette sales. After all, the more people are blowing smoke, the fewer will be, you know, actually blowing smoke.

While I understand the impulse behind this focus, I do think it’s a little poor from a strategic perspective. The idea that California is simply trying to protect its tobacco revenue by stifling its emerging vaping industry might strike many people as a little too conspiratorial, and, frankly, I don’t believe things are quite as simple. More likely, public health officials in California, much like public health officials everywhere, are the kind of people who easily get taken in by alarmist messages; the origin for these alarmist messages is the real issue, as well as the way in which these messages have been disseminated as fact, largely with the help of big tobacco companies. Money leads to wide public exposure, and exposure molds people’s opinions.

The war between vapers and anti-vaping activists that is currently playing out on the West Coast will undoubtedly make its way to the East eventually, so it’s important to follow even if there’s nothing else for you in California. While both sides are busy exchanging blows, though, you go ahead and carry on not blowing smoke!

Happy vaping!

 

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