An Interview with Spike:
Part 1: Switching to Electronic Cigarettes | Part 2: National Vapers' Club | Part 3: Anti-Smoking and the Electronic Cigarette | Part 4: John Banzhaf | Part 5 The FDA and Electronic Cigarette Research | Part 6: Advice for Novices | Part 7: Mainstream Vaping
Earlier this year members of the National Vapers Club attempted to meet John Banzhaf III to ask him questions about the electronic cigarette. Spike Babaian, President of the National Vaper's Club, describes what happened.
ECD: Now, you have personally met John Banzhaf, the director of ASH International, and he’s a fervent opponent of the electronic cigarette. Why did you want to speak to him?
Spike: You should not say John Banzhaf. He’s very insulted by that. You should say the distinguished public interest law professor John Banzhaf III. That is his full title and you should use it cause if you don’t know him, he’s very insulted by you not saying Professor John Banzhaf III, you know.
So I did meet him and it was an interesting experience.
ECD: Sorry, I’m not sure if I caught that. Why did you want to meet him first? What was the reason you wanted to speak to him?
Spike: One of the questions that we wanted to ask him, we had a list of questions that we wanted to ask him. One of the questions we intended to ask him was why he would want to ban a product, as a non-smoker and as an anti-smoker, why he would want to ban a product that would effectively help millions and millions of people quit smoking, you know, that has essentially been proven to help people quit smoking.
Now whether or not it’s intended for that purpose is irrelevant but if people can make the switch from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, why would someone who is opposed to cigarettes and to smoking not want that product to be on the market? This was one of the main questions that we wanted to ask him. And even from a personal perspective, why would he want to take away my choice to something other than cigarettes so …
ECD: So how did the meeting go?
Spike: Well, he was having a conference called World’s Non-smokers Rights 7th Annual World’s Non-Smoker’s Rights Conference something to that effect, and we thought, oh well, we’re non-smokers and we represent a group of thousands and thousands of non-smokers so we would like to go and present. Now, he did specifically state that there would be discussion on e-cigarettes at his conference.
So I wrote him a letter and I said you know, Professor Banzhaf, I would very much like to present on electronic cigarette at your conference. And, you know, I waited for a response. I did not get a response, so OK, well, perhaps all of the sponsors are full so then he posted a message on a private reserve saying:
“We’re still looking for more people to present” and I said, “I would like to present” and he did not respond.
So, considering that I know more about electronic cigarettes than most people except maybe Kate from Vapers’ Network and yourself, I thought that I would be the appropriate person to speak on e-cigarettes at his conference. But again he did not respond, so I registered to attend the conference and I received an email saying, “You’re not, this is an invitation-only event and you are not invited.”
And I was extremely insulted so my other intent in going to be him was to ask him, “Why you would want to prevent non-smokers rights activists from learning from something, learning about something that’s an alternative to smoking when he’s a non-smokers rights activist?”
So we went down I went and met two other colleagues and National Vaper’s Club members from the Virginia-Maryland-DC area. I met with them and we went to, with a video camera, to ask him some questions publicly and perhaps to get a chance to interview him. We went to his conference and of course we didn’t want to intrude on his conference and so we waited. And we spoke to the assistant and she gave us permission to wait and said that maybe he would be willing to answer some questions for us once he was done, you know, with this conference and was on a lunch break. So we sat down and we waited to speak with him.
Before his lunch break started, he came out of the conference spoke with her and then went to call security and seven security guards surrounded us and said, “There’s been a call that there are protesters here.”
So we all looked around and said, “Where?”
And they said, “You! You’re protesting him.”
We said, “Well does it look like we’re protesting? We’re sitting waiting to ask Mr. Banzhaf some questions. We were told we’d be allowed to ask him questions on his lunch break.”
His assistant confirmed that, yes, we would be allowed to ask him questions. She said we would be allowed to ask him questions but she was not aware that he did not want to answer any questions. So we asked him why he wouldn’t want to answer any questions when you know he feels so strongly opposed to e-cigarettes he should be willing to answer questions about them.
And he decided that he did not want to and he said, “I demand that you leave right now.”
He asked the security to ban us from the premises and they said, “Well, you’ve asked them to leave and they’re willing to leave so you can’t ban them. So we’re just going to let them leave.”
And he said, “You can’t do that. You gotta ban them,” and of course you know his name was Professor Banzhaf, let’s ban everything. But that was not settled so they asked us to leave so we said, “Yes, of course we’ll leave.”
He took our information for his future later use, and I don’t know what to accuse us of things. I guess. And we left.
And I waited outside for him to finish and I hoped that maybe when he came out and had more time he might be wiling to answer some questions. When the conference was over he came out. And he tried to walk away from me and I walked down the street behind him and I said, “Professor Banzhaf, excuse me I’d really like you to answer one question for me.”
And he continued to walk and would not turn around, and actually I have a video of it maybe I can provide a little a link so you can put it at the bottom of the screen for people. And finally his colleague, Jack Cannon, turned around and said, “Were you talking to him or we’re you talking to me ?”
And I said, “I’m talking to anyone who is a non-smoker’s rights activist because I would like somebody to explain to me why somebody would try to ban a product that has helped millions of people quit smoking cigarettes even if that’s not the purpose it’s intended for?”
And he said, “Are we talking about the e-cigarette?” and I said, yes, then he said, “Then I have no comment,” and walked away and Professor Banzhaf had continued walking and would not even turn around and address my comment. So I don’t know why he’s afraid to answer any questions. I don’t why he’s afraid of me. I don’t know what he thinks I’m going to do. I just wanted the answers to some questions
ECD: So you went to ask him some questions and you had thrown out by security, or tried to.
Spike: Yes, yes that is the summary.