Monday, 18 January 2016

Damn those kids!

So I am sitting here sorta sniggering to myself despite being infuriated by the latest study that shows very little yet professes to show an awful lot which includes wibbling about gateways and so on and blah blah. It is all very boring and predictable and can be found here.

As I sat reading through it this morning, becoming increasingly frustrated at its contents and tortured conclusions, one part really tickled me.

There are 3 paragraphs on what is, essentially, wrong with the study usefully included within itself. To be fair this is common practice but I don't think I have yet read one that has so many suggestions on how they could have done it better. It does rather beg the question of 'Well, why didn't you actually do that then?' from which the appropriate conclusion can be drawn of 'Because we want more funding'

One of these suggestions particularly tickled me. It transpires that the control group were not exposed to any advertising whatsoever, unlike the other two groups who were shown ads that contained either 'Candy flavoured' (ARGH! - Candy? Seriously people of Cambridge university?) and 'non-flavoured' e-cigs. It does not say what the adverts were so I can only guess at that. Actually, I can't even do that, I have literally no idea. Does non-flavoured mean tobacco or no flavour mentioned at all?

So the control group just had to answer some questions on their attitudes to smoking. Anyway, their suggestion to improve on this in the next study was to ensure that the control group had some adverts to look at too, you know so they had something to actually compare with what with this being a study about the effects of advertising on 11 - 16 year olds. Our esteemed researchers suggest that a suitable product would be stationary.

Yes. Stationary.

I am now plagued with scenarios of how this would play out. So I introduce to you Jenny and Johnny.

Jenny has been given a booklet with lots of colourful pictures of e-cig adverts in such flavours as bubblegum, candy floss and chocolate.

Johnny has been given a booklet of adverts for bic biros, various types of A4 paper, staples and some paper clips.

Researcher - Right girls and boys, I would like you to open your booklets and look at the first picture then answer a few questions about it on the next page. Once you have done this first one please ask if you have any questions and then continue with the rest of pictures.

Johnny - Miss? Isn't this study about if I want to buy things?

Researcher - Yes dear, just as we talked about at the start. Is that ok?

Johnny - It's just that I have an advert for a fine nibbed biro, have I got the right booklet?

Researcher - Yes that's right. Have a look and then answer whether you liked the advert and if you would like to buy it. You get pocket money?

Johnny - Yes I do.

Researcher - So would you spend your pocket money on that or any of the other things in the booklet?

Johnny - The biro?

R - Yes, the biro.

Johnny - [ riffling through pages ] What about the 80gsm printer paper?

R - Yes that too but please do one page at a time.

Johnny - Would I spend my pocket money on pens and paper?

R - Yes, please write down your answers.

Johnny - I buy comic books with my pocket money.

R - Yes, but would you buy those things there Johnny?

Johnny - [ Disbelief ] With my own money?

R - YES! - uh.. yes

Johnny - But my mum and dad buy those things, why would I use my money? What does gsm stand for? [ calls across the classroom ] Jenny? What are you looking at?

R - No, please don..

Jenny - Dunno, those ecig things

R - Girls and boys I really mu...

Johnny - So why have I got a picture of Asda's Back To School pencil case with the plastic semi circle ruler thing in it?

Jenny - Dunno, but did you know these come in bubblegum flavour? [surprised]


Johnny - What? No! Bet they're expensive. Hey I bought some extra lives on Candy Crush the other day, what level are you on? Hey Miss? Can't I have some pictures of computer games or something? I have my ...

R - Johnny please...

Johnny - ...mums google wallet thing on my phone and she lets me use it for my pocket money. AND I got some FIFA coins the other day!

Jenny - Have you seen that advert for Clash of Clans with James Corden in? OMG that baby dragon thing is SO COOL! I am going to get a new phone for my birthday so I will be able to play it then!

R - Children

Jenny - Did you see Star Wars? Dad says I can have a Hans Solo doll if I stop biting my fingernails

Johnny - Oh man that is so cool, I wish I bit my fingernails. How cool was it though when Hans Solo died...

R - Really now chil...

Johnny - I was like OMG NO WAY

R - Johnny...

Jenny - Yeah I know!! And Chewie was all like upset and stuff and...

R - Jenny, could yo...

Johnny - yeah yeah and like I swear my mum was like crying or something..


J&J - Yes?

R - [ close to tears ] Please, just, concentrate.

Johnny - this is so boring,

[Hallway after session has fnished]

Jenny - Why do they keep asking us this stuff about ecigs?

Johnny - Dunno, it's annoying though. Did you see on Facebook that everyone is using them?

Jenny - Really? Sez who?

Johnny - Oh scientists and stuff, it was in a paper. My mum shares that stuff all the time. Apparently they are just as bad as real fags.

Jenny - Yeah I know, that is why my dad won't use one. I used to think they were good but he said 'No'.

[Debrief among researchers]

Well I think this is fairly conclusive, none of the kids wanted to buy the stationary and they were fairly apathetic about the ads....

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Lysol Lady

It has been an odd few days for me, bittersweet you might say. A much needed 4 day break from Twitter to get my thoughts in order and work out just what part I am playing in all this and if it is worth the stress I am putting on myself.

4 days later and I haven't really found an answer and  I guess I did not really expect to. Maybe I wouldn't have liked the conclusion I should have come to and so avoided finding it. Who knows? I can say with absolute certainty that 4 days ago I nearly wrote my resignation from NNA and was ready to throw the towel in on all of this.

I am now properly 3 years into being an e-cig advocate, whatever that means. Am I someone who advocates vaping? Fights for the right for smokers to choose their own path, unfettered by asinine rules and regulations? An ardent supporter for the re-humanisation of smokers? Someone trying to fight back against the most powerful and influential people and organisations on the planet? Or just an angry person on social media who thinks she is part of a group who has all the answers, who right now is being sat upon by an ancient cat who bears the faint aroma of a litter tray that needs changing.

I think I am all of those things, I think we all are - although with some variations taking into account pet ownership. But I also think we are so far into the woods that we, too, are in danger of not seeing it for the trees.

Although on the face of it my absence was as a result of a minor issue relating to the portrayal of women - though I doubt many realise that is what it was as I didn't explain it, didn't even attempt to in fact. - it was more about our arguments being applicable across the board. Whatever words we manage to squeeze into 140 characters (less @handles) are backed up by a million more supporting words that rarely get aired. I was saddened that although we all bear the marks of people that have been ostracised for a smoking habits thanks to the portrayal of smoking to society, we forgot it for a moment. Smokers are the bad guys in films and TV, they are the rapist in the Barnardos poster campaign. The bad parent, the smelly and weird guy huddled in the doorway come rain or snow or gale force wind. Smokers are the losers, the saddos, the ignorant who are blissfully killing everyone around them with their second hand smoke. All of us involved in this object to all this. We are trying to fight back against it and stop it from happening to vapers too. We understand it as we have lived it, been the smoker that is sneered at, shunned and lectured for their unsociable habit. The public has willingly adopted this loathing of smokers thanks to how they have been portrayed across every visual and aural platform there is and for decades. Perhaps the point I didn't make in my 140 characters but was backed up by a million untyped words, was that I feel the same way about how woman are portrayed too and the knock on effects it is having.

See? Not really that different is it. The argument is the same no matter what the subject is. I know the portrayal of women only affects half the population, but the other half suffer it too. Surely men get sick of being shown as endlessly violent, untrustworthy, dishonest, sexual predators who can't control themselves? Of course they do and it is the same argument again. The way any one group is pictured to society eventually becomes the norm. It is how society works. But if smokers say anything, the anti-smokers scream 'ARRRRGGGHHH but you are and the evidence and the children and and and how dare you and omg you are shills and astroturf and addicts and and and'. If a woman points out she can see a downside to how women are portrayed she gets' ARRRRGGGHHH bloody feminazi, you man hater, why can't men look at women all the time, you are just jealous/fat/ugly/on your period/old/a lesbian' and likewise when a man points it the same issues for them 'ARRRRGGGHHH you bloody misgynist, you are all the same, look at the crime rates'.

I point this out because the root of the arguments are all the same. The problem arises because we are all so entrenched in our particular cause that we lose sight of the similarities.

So how does this relate to e-cigs?

I am going to take a big calming breath before I say this as there is no more a toxic subject around than this at the minute. Perhaps you ought to also, dear reader.

Med e-cigs.

If you don't know what this is you should be ashamed and I refuse to explain it to you!*

Why is this relevant I hear you ask? Look back at why we all started this. Why did you start advocating for vaping? For me it was a case of being faced with a future where e-cigs were regulated out of existence. It was a fully medicinalised market or nothing at all. The bleakest of futures which sadly is being played out in various places across the globe as I type. The objective was to ensure that smokers could access vaping any which way they chose to, in whatever shape or form they wanted. It was to ensure there was no pressure, that PH and TC stopped their demonisation of smokers and did not extend it to vapers.

It was to force 'quit or die' out of their unspoken lexicon.

In the time we have all being doing this we have managed to come a long way and achieve an awful lot. But at the root of everything was choice. The ability for smokers to choose. We know that only around 8% of smokers access SSS and that the smokers for whom e-cigs seem most appealing and most effective are the ones who not only aren't interested in state support but aren't really that interested in quitting at all. The 'hard to reach'. The invisible smokers.

But, in our fight for those smokers, we seem to have forgotten that 8% of smokers who DO want support and help. At least, that is how it feels. One of the biggest appeals of vaping is the self sufficiency, the continuation of pleasure and the ability to keep something that is part of your identity rather than the state ripping it from you.

However, it does not change the fact that a minority of smokers DO want support and will ONLY take comfort from a professional when it comes to advice about quitting smoking, and after decades of being told they are hopeless and pathetic human beings who can blame them? I don't and will not judge them for it.

The bottom line is it is up to the smoker, a totally personal thing as to how they deal with becoming a non smoker, if at all. It is not up to anyone else to decide how they do that, what path they choose or even IF they choose a path. It is the smoker's choice and theirs alone.

It is our job to make sure that every smoker has every opportunity if they want it. If the smoker needs the reassurance of an MHRA approved device is it up to us to say they can't have it? There are so many vapers now in the UK that no matter how piss poor a medical e-cig is (and make no bones about it, this one IS piss poor in the extreme) it won't be long before another vaper says 'Ee'ya, try this instead'. And suddenly you have someone who was never going to walk into a vape shop with a proper ecig in their hand. That is a win, no?

I do have huge misgivings about a med e-cig and that is the fact that those in mental health environments could find themselves forced into only being allowed to use an approved device, and this is as bad as it gets imo. But that is right now, what if a 2nd generation device becomes available with an MA?  A 3rd? Do we fight that also?

This isn't about capitulation, it is not about 'well if we agree to this...' it is about making sure that all smokers have an option which suits them. If we remove one of those options aren't we essentially saying 'quit or die' ourselves? Our way or the highway? Do we risk becoming as bad as those we are pitched in battle against?

The existence of a medical e-cig does not affect anyone in any real sense. Most smokers won't want it for the same reasons as they don't want NRT. But, I am not prepared to sacrifice that minority just cos I, personally, don't like the idea of it and would not have used that route. 

We are faced with some massive problems that DO affect smokers and their perceptions of vaping and that is appalling research being disseminated without question from every media outlet in the world. The fact that vapers are slowly being painted into a corner that was previously only occupied by smokers, so that the non-smoking public can clearly see who is not welcome in their pubs, cafes and restaurants. That a hardcore of media savvy, attention seeking dinosaurs are fighting a battle that they profess is to protect the children but in reality serves only to harm smokers, punish them for being 'slaves' to an industry they despise. A mounting campaign to specifically demonise nicotine and those that use it. Usage bans being enacted at a rate that defies belief given the absolute lack of supporting evidence.These are the very real problems that we face.

In the grand scheme of things a med ecig is a distraction in a country where we have a vibrant market that, at first glance, it seems the UK gov is trying to keep. As best it can within the confines of the ludicrous TPD anyway. Already the med e-cig is being used by the media as a tool to further beat smokers with, as leeches feeding from the NHS. It is being rejected by the very people who demanded it and swore it was the only way they could accept e-cigs as a viable alternative to smoking. And to top it off, we are getting upset about a product that is likely not to ever be put into production so won't be seen on shelves anywhere. 

I do not endorse this medical e-cigarette. I do not particularly endorse the concept of a med e-cig at all, but it is not about me. I found my way and it is not up to me how others find theirs. My only task is to make sure they CAN find their way if they want it. Is that not the same for all of us?

Finally, who is the Lysol Lady? Unsurprisingly, to anyone who has read previous blogs, she is a character from a PKD short story, 'Strange Memories of Death'. If you are so inclined, seek it out and have a read.

*I felt bad