Worst Anti-Vaping Nuts Of 2014
Reprinted with kind permission of Ecigs Plaza
Electronic cigarettes come in for way more than their share of bad media attention, but a surprising amount of it is generated directly or indirectly by a small group of people. Others work tirelessly to put negative information about vaping online, or create “scientific” reports that border on fraud. As the year draws to a close, all these people compete for a coveted place on our (un)official 2014 Enemies List.
My blogs this year have covered a lot of ground, from Spanish politics to the best way to get started with vaping, but quite a few of them have been about attacks on vaping by various individuals. Unfortunately this is the world we live in. You’d think that when a safer alternative to smoking appears, those who’ve dedicated their careers to tobacco control would be over the moon. Well, a lot of them aren’t. It turns out that they’re not all that interested in saving smokers’ lives at all, or if they are it comes a distant third after the really important stuff – ending the use of nicotine (a perfectly legal recreational drug that’s about as safe as caffeine and has a number of beneficial effects) and destroying the tobacco industry.
This actually says it all about how insanely wicked some of them are; even if they did manage to “destroy the tobacco industry” does anyone really think the top executives of Philip Morris will lose their executive jets and end up on the street? Of course not. They’ll just retire and spend the rest of their lives in immense luxury. Meanwhile millions of ordinary people will lose their jobs and millions more will have their pension plans devastated, as tobacco shares collapse and take the big investment funds down a few notches in the process. There are many genuine, decent professionals working in tobacco control and it’s those people – people like Louise Ross of Leicestershire SSS – who’re recognising the potential of electronic cigarettes to change the whole smoking game. But there are others whose motives are murkier or just downright wrong.
Some of them oppose vaping because it hurts the income of their friends in the pharmaceutical industry. Nicotine replacement therapy is big business, with outrageous markups. You’ll pay £2.99 for 25 pieces of Nicorette gum, but 25 pieces of Wrigley’s Spearmint is less than a pound. How expensive do you think nicotine is really? Well, what’s the price difference between a bottle of 24mg e-liquid and a bottle of nicotine-free e-liquid? Exactly. Nicotine is dirt cheap. Nicotine gum, patches and inhalators sell for inflated prices though, raking in billions a year, and vaping threatens that. Then of course there are the ANTZ – anti nicotine and tobacco zealots – who oppose vaping because recreational drug use offends their delicate sensibilities (although you can bet they enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine), because it looks like smoking or because they Just Don’t like It.
So these people, whatever their motives, have been annoying me all year and now it’s time for payback. This, then, is my tribute to them. It’s the Hall of Shame, the Masters of Disaster, the ANTZ Awards. Here, in no particular order, is the official Enemies List.
Professor Martin McKee
Martin “Bubblegum” McKee is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Disease, which regularly gets six-figure funding from NRT manufacturer Glaxo SmithKline. That’s not a conflict of interest though; we know that, because Martin said. He’s prone to sticking his foot in it, such as when he got booed earlier this year after comparing e-cigs to thalidomide at a public health conference. McKee is obsessed with bubblegum-flavour e-liquid, which he insists is targeted at children. Clearly it isn’t targeted very well, because the number of young non-smokers who vape continues to hover obstinately around zero. One almost gets the feeling that Martin is annoyed about this.
Although it says epidemiologist on his office door McKee is really just a superannuated Marxist crank whose political worldview collapsed along with the Berlin Wall on 9 November, 1989. He just hasn’t noticed yet.
McKee is so appalling that the Redhead Full of Steam has had to give him his own category.
Linda McAvan MEP
If you’re worried about the European Union’s upcoming Tobacco Products Directive – and you should be; as of 2016 just about every e-cig currently on the market will be banned – Labour MEP McAvan is the one you need to blame. The restrictions on what you’re allowed to vape are almost entirely her work; despite being thwarted by a democratic vote at an early stage she manipulated the EU’s arcane and flawed political process in a series of backroom meetings, which is why the best alternative to smoking ever developed will now be regulated more strictly than actual real cigarettes.
Professor John Ashton
Ashton is the director of the UK Faculty of Public Health. The word “faculty” suggests that this is a serious, professional research body, but it’s not really; it’s just a pressure group filled with people who like banning stuff, and perennial rent-a-gob Ashton is in his element as its boss. Unfortunately he’s not in his element when he ventures online, especially when he’s been celebrating, and on 6 September he launched an amazing tirade of abusive tweets aimed at vapers. Over a period of several hours he called vapers “c**ts” and “onanists” and compared them to “lads who used to play with themselves behind the bike sheds at school”. He then went on to search for vaping-related tweets and inform their senders that they were “Just another slave to addiction”.
Next day, in a more sober frame of mind – libel lawyers take note: when I say sober I mean “reflective” rather than “not drunk any more” – he tried to delete the evidence, apparently unaware that this was not actually possible. Then, when screenshots started to appear, he tried to spin it into a story of him being attacked and lashing out in response. Sadly this claim was undermined when someone pointed out that his tweets were dated 6 September, while the insults he’d received from vapers were dated 7 September. Of course he had plenty of supporters in the incestuous and self-serving world of “third sector” public health pressure groups, including the ever-admirable Bubblegum, and managed to keep his job. But not his credibility.
Doctor James Heilman
This minor, but irritating, ANTZ spends part of each day as an emergency room doctor somewhere in Canada; patient comments include “Poor bedside manner”, “Arrogant and rude. We can only be thankful that he is gone”, “Not the first visit with him that I found him rude and almost sarcastic” and “I think this person has chosen the wrong profession”. The rest of the time he’s one of the self-appointed and megalomaniacal cabal who run Wikipedia, where he goes by the name Doc James. Using a combination of stubbornness, creative fact-citing and a discussion style that makes you think you’re arguing with the speaking clock, Heilman and his pet monkey QuackGuru have turned Wikipedia’s article on e-cigs into a dire litany of every “concern”, scare and semi-fraudulent study back to 2009. Luckily the result looks like it was written by throwing alphabet soup at the wall and seeing what stuck, so nobody will ever actually read it – Heilman admits himself that his spelling and grammar are poor, and for once nobody’s disagreeing with him.
Professor Simon Chapman
I’ve always liked Australians. From leather-skinned bush rangers who wrestle crocodiles for fun and think drinking their own body weight in Victoria Bitter is breakfast, to the cheerful freckled girls who make up 99.83% of the entire world’s barmaid supply, they’re easy-going and friendly people. I don’t like Simon Chapman though. A long-time anti-smoker, Chapman sides with McKee and his fellow Marxist lunatic Gerard Hastings in blaming tobacco advertising for absolutely everything that goes wrong in the world. He was an advocate of the plain packs scheme that lets millions of Australians smoke cheap brands without anyone noticing, and now he’s switched his attention to criticising vapers. When he’s not doing that he accepts a pile of cash for telling people who live near wind farms that the noise they hear is only a figment of their imaginations. Chapman’s approach to dialogue is summed up by the fact that he’ll block you on Twitter if you have a friend who vapes.
Doctor Gabriel Scally
Scally is the house elf of the public health industry, scurrying around after the likes of McKee and Ashton to “clarify” their more hysterical and intemperate comments. He’s not important but he’s very annoying, so he wins a place on the list.
Professor Stanton A. Glantz
I’ve saved the best for last. Stan Glantz is a professor of tobacco control at the University of California in San Francisco. He’s been pestering smokers since the 1970s but his entire focus switched to electronic cigarettes two or three years ago. He has a creative approach to research and his reviews of the evidence tend to be highly selective. For example he’s obsessed with the idea that e-cig vapour causes heart attacks because it contains particles the same size as the ones in cigarette smoke. Never mind the fact that what it’s a particle of matters a lot more than the size; of four reviews that actually looked at the particle size, three concluded that vapour droplets are three to six times larger than the solid particles in smoke, so don’t penetrate anywhere near as far into the lungs. Who wrote the fourth review? Oh, that would be Stan Glantz. Because his views are so far out on the lunatic fringe even by California tobacco control standards Glantz has a habit of citing his own work as evidence, despite this not being generally seen as good science. The fact that Glantz has no qualifications in either science or medicine might have something to do with this; although he has the title “Professor of Cardiology” because of the faculty he belongs to, all his degrees are in aeronautical engineering.
Glantz has tried to “prove” that e-cigs tempt children to become smokers by using data from a snapshot study, which is impossible; to prove the direction of a trend you need a study that observes people over time, not a snapshot. Even the American Legacy Foundation, the anti-smoking group that funds his job, rapidly backed off from that and publicly criticised the science. He claimed to have shown that e-cigs don’t help with quitting, based on a review of five studies that didn’t even ask that question. He also claims that e-cigs “have microchips in them to make them more addictive”, but just splutters and turns red when asked for evidence. I like San Francisco, but I don’t like Stan Glantz.
So anyway, these are the ANTZ who’ve annoyed me most this year. Some are malevolent, some are just ignorant, but they all want to stop you vaping because they Just Don’t Like It. If you see an article warning about the dangers of e-cigarettes in 2015, and it mentions any one of these people – McKee and Glantz are particularly fond of talking to journalists – it can safely be ignored. There are real scientists doing real work on electronic cigarettes, but none of them are on this list. Perhaps I’ll do a list of the good guys soon….
About the author:
Fergus is an aspiring author and dedicated vaper. Blogging about e-cigs lets him combine two of his favourite things.