While it’s exhilarating being involved in vaping activism in the UK, it can also be deeply frustrating. The vaping community has such a wealth of passionate, talented and creative people that we should be able to move mountains. In reality we would be hard pushed to organise the proverbial in a brewery. Why can’t we vapers get our act together?
The BBC anniversary meets / Vaping Flashmobs were a perfect example. The poor attendance at these meets shouldn’t have surprised anyone as there was no focus for the events, and they were poorly publicised. Yes, it’s lucky the media weren’t there to see it – but would anyone have got it together to contact them anyway? This is not a criticism of any one – that anyone attended at all is testimony to the individual organisers’ hard work – but it is a failure of our activist community as a whole. If it had been properly organised, then the work would have been shared and the event could have been much more successful.
We vapers have been drawn together by social media but we are failing to use it to our advantage – and it’s now dividing us. The vaping Facebook groups have mushroomed but many of the die-hard forumites (which include some of the sharpest minds in our community) refuse to use Facebook. There are also Twitter cliques, numerous chat rooms and a proliferation of vaping forums. Vapers are concentrated in virtual villages – and communication between the villages is patchy.
It’s easier to talk about this stuff with concrete examples – so let’s look at the MOVE campaign. (If you don’t know what MOVE is, that will go some way towards illustrating my point.)
The MOVE campaign could be extremely effective in changing the way health professionals view vaping and could put considerable pressure on governments to regulate sensibly. Vapers need to ask health professionals to sign it – this is key to MOVE’s success. This message somehow needs to be conveyed to every vaper who engages on social media – and ideally to people outside the vaping bubble too. This isn’t a particularly ambitious campaign – a million signatures are not required – it should be well within our capabilities to make this work.
This is (arguably) how support for MOVE should be organised: an action plan is agreed. Gerry Stimson (as MOVE campaign advisor and founding board member of the New Nicotine Alliance) is asked to oversee it. The New Nicotine Alliance associates are encouraged to promote it. VTTV and the other vaping media are contacted and given all the information they need to push it. Forum admin are asked to put banners up. Forum members start MOVE threads on all the forums – and are on hand to monitor the threads. Twitter bombs are created, and health professionals tweeted. The media is contacted, press releases written and issued, a Facebook group started and existing Facbook groups updated. Reddit threads are created – etc etc etc.
This can’t happen without having a central hub for organising campaigns. We urgently need to set up a means of communicating and sharing resources. Who knows – if we do organise ourselves, then more vapers might want to join us and add their time and skills to ours. Time is a very precious commodity in 2015 and few people can afford to waste theirs on headless chicken style campaigning.
If you still need persuading as to why we need to get our act together, please see Big Tobacco’s Little Helpers (David Swearnor) on Clive Bates’ The Counterfactual. Here is an extract from an insightful comment made by “Anonymous”:
A few hundred or thousand die hard vaping advocates can be ignored and walked all over. Energy and focus must be spent on educating the non smokers in the same way that charities successfully appeal to the public for donations when a catastrophe occurs. The non smoking public has to understand THR and be motivated to support a product that has the potential to save millions of lives.
This proposed Campaign for Truth in Public Health could provide another strong reason for us vapers to get organised. Rolygate says that we need to recognise that we are fighting a propaganda war and should set up an organisation to push back against “the torrent of lies being promulgated by the heavily-conflicted Public Health industry.” He argues that we should be prioritising funding for the war on propaganda rather than spending on more research (“We already have enough research to paper the walls with”). He writes:
It is now clear that some sort of properly-organised counter-propaganda effort is needed, before it is too late.
It’s a compelling argument – please read it if you can.
Few would disagree that countering the propaganda and persuading the wider community of the value of vaping is crucial to our success – but no one with any sanity could believe that we are currently capable of achieving it.