Last October I was waiting for a train to Brighton from Haywards Heath station. The station was pretty empty and as I looked down the windswept platform I could see a handful of people. I calculated that I had a few minutes before the train was to arrive so I strolled about fifty feet up the platform, away from the handful of people, to an empty area and lit up a cigarette. A few drags into the cigarette my train started to appear in the distance, I subconsciously made the decision to take a couple of final drags before my train arrived. At this point out of nowhere a short, bald, middle-aged, fat man appeared in front of my face. I recognised him as one of the handful of people I had walked fifty feet away from only a few minutes ago. The short, bald, middle-aged, fat man then wagged his stubby little finger in my face and said, in the kind of nasal and haughty whine reserved only for the severely unhappy and sexually unsatisfied, “no no no you’re not allowed to smoke here”. I was shocked! I took a quick look at his shabby grey corduroy appearance to confirm that he had no official role, at the station, and that he was in fact just an interfering busy body cunt. With my train now rapidly approaching the platform I had two options, I could either push him under the oncoming train and in doing so make the world a more tolerant, happier place or tell the troll to “fuck off you sad little man”. I went with the later and can now confirm that in life you regret the things you didn’t much more than the things you did.
Why was it his business? I suppose technically I wasn’t allowed to smoke there, but it was open air, I made sure I wasn’t anywhere near anyone else and I was hurting no-one but myself. However the smoking ban had given this boring little man the hubris to believe he had some sort of authority over my choices. I’m not actually against the smoking ban, smoking is undoubtedly bad for you and is not something I would like my kids to do. Most of all though, I liked that the smoking ban gave me the opportunity to leave boring conversations with boring people and nip outside to meet the imperfect and interesting. All that being said a little over a month ago I plumped for a proper electronic cigarette. By ‘proper’ I mean one with a tank for e-liquid rather than the weak cigarette lookalike things, which I had unsuccessfully tried in the past. My main reason for trying these things was that I had seen my parents convert from heavy smokers of forty years to vaping overnight. They had been converted for five months prior to me and straight away, for me as well, it worked. No cravings for the real thing, my cough disappeared, my teeth are whiter, I no longer stink and I can now run up a flight of stairs without feeling dizzy. The only thing I miss is having to go outside. In fact most of the time I still do, out of politeness, as I understand that many people don’t understand there is no passive element or harmful carcinogenic toxins in the vapour produced. I also nip outside for the same reasons that I used to when I smoked, to get away from boring situations, organise my thoughts and to meet with kindred spirits. Whilst outside I get to share my e-cig experience with traditional smokers who are always curious and positive, equally about the money they could save as they are the health benefits. I don’t mind going outside the problem is that I don’t want to be forced to go outside by a law. A law that will give a sense of validation to the judgmental feelings of boring, little, petty, authoritarian cunts who are unable to think critically and who need dictates from centralised power to inform their opinions.
Worldwide there is now a growing trend to apply the same tobacco laws to vaping. New York and Chicago have recently banned the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and there are calls from the British Medical Association to do the same in the UK. These calls are not based on health grounds. Electronic cigarettes do not produce smoke, but water vapour, the liquid they use to produce this vapour is made from 3 ingredients. These being…
- Nicotine – Nicotine is a stimulant and a relaxant. It is psychoactive and produces feelings of alertness and calmness. The brain likes this and this is addictive part of cigarettes. However nicotine itself is no more damaging to the health than caffeine. Some electronic cigarette users choose not to have nicotine in their liquid and many reduce their nicotine levels to wean themselves from nicotine completely, personally I enjoy nicotine and have no plans to reduce my intake in much the same way that I have no plans to decrease the amount of coffee I drink.
- Flavouring – Generally artificial over the counter food flavour concentrates, although there is now a move towards organic flavourings for the more discerning vaper.
- Diluents – These are used to dilute the above ingredients into and furthermore provide a sensation similar to smoking in the throat. The diluent is either PG, VG or a combination of the two. PG or Propylene Glycol is a food addictive commonly found in ice cream and frozen desserts and VG or Vegetable Glycerine is also a food addictive with some uses in medicine, such as asthma inhalers, and even found in toothpaste.
The most dangerous ingredient from the above list is without a doubt nicotine and there have been a tiny few, very well publicised, cases of nicotine poisoning from the accidental drinking of e-liquids. However a gulp of bleach from under my sink will have adverse effects too which is why I don’t do it. On the issue of safety even the British Medical Association have no real objections, Dr Ram Moorthy, from the BMA admits, with reference to electronic cigarettes, that “It is clear they are less harmful by several magnitudes than smoking”. So what exactly the BMA’s problem? Well according to Dr Ram Moorthy “Our concern with the use of e-cigarettes is that it normalises behaviour that has become socially unacceptable”. But I thought the reason smoking became socially unacceptable was that it was bad for our health and those around us? But now it’s just that the BMA just don’t like the look of people inhaling and exhaling something visible? What the fuck has got to do with them? Apparently their “biggest concern is that something that looks like smoking becomes glamorous again and may be attractive to children”, but isn’t that why we have age limits? Personally I’m more worried that the ‘glamorous’ lifestyles of corporate sponsored, vacuous pop stars, such as Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, might become attractive to children. If the BMA was that worried about influences on our kids they should be calling for a ban on the X-factor.
When the BMA talk of a ban in public places what they mean is a ban in pubs and restaurants, places which are arguably adult environments. I have two kids and every now and then we might take them to a pub or a restaurant and they may even hear someone swear, or overhear a joke they don’t quite understand from someone standing at the bar. They could even look out the window and see someone smoking a real cigarette! But I accept that I’ve taken them to an adult environment and with that comes some exposure to the real world. I don’t see this as a problem, I see it as important preparation for a time when I am not there to hold their hand. But all of this is kind of irrelevant as if there is no provable harm from vaping, more than say a cup of coffee, why should I be frightened of my kids doing it when they reach eighteen? There is no empirical correlation that suggests those who begin as vapers graduate to hard tobacco. Vaping is not a gateway to smoking but rather an escape route from smoking.
So we are left with the BMA now aiming to stigmatise a healthier nicotine replacement product, not something they have attempted to do with other nicotine replacement products. You know, the ones developed by the pharmaceutical companies who have been so keen over the recent couple of decades to profit from nicotine. They’ve tried patches which replace the nicotine, but don’t give the sensation and make your shoulder itch. They’ve tried to get us on nicotine gum, which gave the sensation of chilli and shit flavoured chewing gum. They’ve tried nicotine strips for your tongue, which give the sensation of burning your tongue with sellotape which was sprayed with hairspray after it had fallen in dog shit. They’ve tried sprays which gave the sensation of spraying bleach into your mouth. They’ve even tried cigarette style inhalers which gave no sensation at all. The BMA had no problem at all with any of these expensive products developed by the pharmaceutical companies. I tried them all and none of them worked, although smoking a strong cigarette whilst wearing a nicotine patch is quite an experience. Could the problem be that there is no way for big pharma to profit from electronic cigarettes? The technology is basically a battery with a heating coil and it is even possible to mix up the liquid on your own, in fact many do as this is cheaper. There’s even an app to help you calculate the recipe for your ideal nicotine strength and flavour.
There is no confusion between someone vaping an electronic device and someone smoking a real cigarette. The ones that actually do the job look nothing like a cigarette, some of the most recent designs look more like a mobile phone than a fag. They don’t smell and they arguably do no more harm than a cup of coffee. Even if you don’t vape or smoke or even never have you should be concerned about what these proposals by the BMA say about civil liberties. There is no justification and all a ban would do is appease and create interfering little busy bodies like in my opening paragraph. There is still something to be said for live and let live. Every weekend a main road route between Haywards Heath and Brighton is obstructed with cyclists challenging themselves to ride up Ditchling Beacon, a steep, long, narrow and winding road. I personally don’t understand why they do it, it’s dangerous to not only themselves but to others that have to use that road, due to dangers overtaking them on their self-righteous journey. We could and maybe should ban cyclists from using this dangerous route as there is a much safer straight road from between Haywards Heath and Brighton of the same distance. I’m sure many cyclists would not be happy, but would appreciate the safety reasons for the ban and move onto the safer route for their weekend ride. Imagine now that the cyclists switch to the alternative safer route and after a while we also ban them using that route, there are no safety reasons, we just don’t fucking like the idea of people cycling. Is that fair? Do we really want to live in a society that just says “no no no” in anasal and haughty whine reserved only for the severely unhappy and sexually unsatisfied?