One man’s battle to save Britain’s pubs – with e cigarettes!

When the smoking ban was brought in, pro-ban campaigners claimed it would benefit British pubs.

Since then, over 8000 British pubs have called TIME for the last time.

But one campaigner sees a light, even if it is only an LED one, at the end of the smokeless ban. We talked to Russell about his campaign to save Britain’s pubs – with e-cigarettes!

Vaping in the pub. Click for embed code!

ECD: Could you tell me a bit about yourself, and how and why you became a vaper?.

Russell: I am a 44 year old married father of two young sons. I have been a teacher for 20 years and was a heavy smoker until the 9th of June 2009, less than 3 months after the birth of our youngest. Having children was instrumental in me attempting not to smoke tobacco cigarettes any more.

I tried to ‘stop smoking’ many times since getting married to Jessica in 2003. Cold turkey did not work, neither did patches, lozenges, nicotine chewing gum or the inhalator – although I did not have a cigarette for 6 weeks whilst using the latter, but that was due to a competition to see who could be ‘smoke-free’ for the longest with my Year 11s at the time! Needless to say, we all failed in the end.

When the smoking ban came in during 2007, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity for me to reduce my intake of tar and carbon monoxide, as I did not fancy moving off the school site at dinner-time or standing outside my favourite pubs at the weekend; unfortunately for me, it did not work.

In June 2009 a work colleague brought in an ecig and I had a drag from it…it was like smoking!!! After researching about them on the internet, I realised that these could give me everything I enjoyed about cigarettes but without smoke!!! I switched and became more productive at work as I could use them indoors, I didn’t stink any more and I could get a social life back because they are legal to use in pubs!!! The bonus and the clincher is the lack of tar and carbon monoxide, which to me, means that the vapour inhaled from ecigs is very likely to be much less harmful than tobacco smoke.

Tell us a bit about your website/campaign.

The Campaign for Vaping in Pubs is to ‘smoking outside’ as CAMRA was to ‘keg beer’ in the 1970s. We have a better alternative that very few people are aware of that could have a major impact on saving The Great British Pub. I started the website in mid-2010 and promoted it heavily on the ecig forums to try and drum up some support. Luckily a couple of graphic designer (Jaded and Slopes – real names with-held) helped with the logos and signs and a few fellow vapers took up the cause. Initially, we invited people on the vaping forums to ask their local pubs if it was all right for them to use their ecigs inside whilst having a drink. The feedback, we received,helped us to compile a list of ‘vape friendly’ pubs so that a few dedicated vapers could visit them in groups and promote the pub as well as the activity. Unfortunately, this has been harder to achieve than I first thought and only a few such events have occurred.

The second phase was to produce an informative website and promotional material which could be downloaded free ofcharge and try to achieve a high google profile without spending any money. This has taken hundreds of hours work and it is only just starting to pay off. We are now recognised as an established organisation and a handful of ecig vendors are now working with us to further increase the awareness of ecigs to the licensed trade.

ECD: Rightly or wrongly, smoking is illegal in pubs,but vaping is legal. So why the need for a dedicated campaign/website?

Russell: Since the ‘smoking ban’, over 8200 pubs have closed in England alone. Many surviving pubs are either barely surviving or have had to diversify in to serving food or by becoming ‘child-friendly’. The traditional pub, the hub of working communities is slowly being denormalised and the first nail in its coffin was the smoking ban. Unfortunately, the smaller breweries and their supporters CAMRA, chose to ignore the significance of these events as real ale sales were on the increase. The expansion of big pub companies such as JD Wetherspoon stocking local ales seems to have pulled the wool over their eyes – as a result, the small traditional pubs are finding it harder and harder to survive.

Vaping is legal in pubs, however, two high profile companies in the licensed trade have a policy not to allow vaping – these are Sam Smiths and JD Wetherspoon. I believe their official line is that people vaping in their pubs would encourage smokers to light up. I think that 4 years on from the smoking ban, that this is just a smoke-screen. A lot of the negative publicity surrounding ecigs around the time of the smoking ban, seemed to put off many smaller, independent publicans and their smokers, so part of CAM-VIP’s mission is to re-educate as well as increase awareness.

ECD: In your opinion, is a vape with a pint as good as a smoke with a pint,or just a good substitute? And do you vape more when you drink?

Russell: Vaping with a pint is a different experience than smoking with a pint but it is equally as satisfying. However, the ecigs that are now being produced are much much closer to the smoking experience than when I started using them over 2 years ago. As the difference is diminishing, I think that more smokers will now be tempted to try an ecig and stay inside the pub with their non-smoking mates.

ECD: Some steadfast smokers see vaping as a threat to their cause (the re-legalisation of smoking in public places).Indeed, Freedom to Choose call them: “A product of coercion.” What’s your reaction?

Russell: I have always seen myself as a smoker, even after switching to ecigs. Being a smoker is an attitude, a social activity and a lifestyle choice as much as it is an addiction. Using an ecig is just a way around the smoking ban as far as I am concerned. If I had my way, there should be the freedom of choice for a publican to allow smoking in their pub, just have a smoking room, only allow vaping or ban the whole lot. Why should this be dictated from Westminster?

F2C have made a mistake. Ecigs have been attacked by government agencies all over the world as a product of coercion by smokers! Ecigs are an ideal way for activists at F2C to make a stand for our freedom of choice as they do not have the bad ‘scientific’ press that real cigarettes have. If the powers that be want to ban something that is not proven to be harmful over maintaining the sales of ‘proven’ killers, there is something fundamentally wrong with our society!

I hope that people who use recreational nicotine will come together to stand up for a legal drug that is being attacked from many angles. The next target will be alcohol … once the real pubs have gone.

ECD: What can publicans/people do to help promotevaping in pubs?

Russell: Get behind CAM-VIP, promote ecigs and promote a legal alternative to smoking in pubs. Support vaping, support The Great British Pub – Support Vaping in Pubs.

Thanks to Russell VR Ord for this interview. Now, why not check out our other interviews!

Image of Vapefest by Jade.

18 thoughts on “One man’s battle to save Britain’s pubs – with e cigarettes!”

  1. I am so glad to hear this David – the use of recreational nicotine is under threat and the more we can fight it together, the better chance we have of being able to choose.

  2. cliff (kingtut)

    Very good and informative interview Russell, the Publicans need to wake up and get behind The Campaign for Vaping in Pubs it well truly bring there customers back,as proven by several pubs that accept and in fact sell Ecigs on there premises.

  3. The e-cig is a disgusting substitute for a real cigarette. Why should smokers be ridiculed by having to suck on a piece of plastic tube.

    Why should smokers use a product that is a substitute, they may as well stick a NRT patch on or chew the gum.

    These devices are making smokers look really stupid and are reinforcing the anti’s stance on calling smokers ‘addicts’. Smokers enjoy smoking real cigarettes and not just using a toy to get a ‘nicotine fix’

    What will be next ? Substituting a glass of beer or wine with water that contains raw alcohol ?

  4. Have you tried an e-cig Shirley? They are less disgusting than the roll-ups or ciarettes I used to puff on. And I dont smell like a dirty old ash tray anymore.

  5. Shirley, you asked “Why should smokers use a product that is a substitute?” One in five smokers suffers from a chronic disease that is caused or worsened by smoking. The fact they continue to smoke in spite of multiple attempts to quit using the patch or gum, proves that a smoke-free alternative is needed that addresses more than just the chemical dependence on nicotine and gives inveterate smokers who are otherwise unable or unwilling to quit a way to enjoy the health benefits of eliminating or at least reducing smoke. As long as you can choose any flavor and nicotine strength, it remains possible for ANYONE to find a smoke-free alternative that is equally or more enjoyable than smoking.

  6. ecig’s are fantastic you can carry on smoking without giving up smoking like I did I was never after giving up cigs but after having my ecig just several weeks I realised that I had not touched a real cig in all that time.
    I feel miles better for it and hope more pubs will allow vaping.
    its better for my wife who has asthma she hated the smell of cigs but loves the smell of some of the liquids I vape.
    There is a large community of people how have risen up around ecigs who don’t want there right to vape to be taken away and a lot of us enjoy a good vape in the pubs that allow it whilst smokers are shunted outside.
    I also think that publicans should have been allowed to chose and have a dedicated smoking room instead of the outright ban that happened.

  7. Hi Shirley Rolls.
    just for you.
    I have been a smoker since I was 12 years old.
    I am addicted to nicotine, sorry but that’s the truth, back then smoking was meant to be good for you.
    Four months ago at the age of 60 I was diagnosed has having stage two COPD, the result of 48 years of smoking.
    I have tried to give up smoking many times for the past 20 years and failed miserably, tried em all, patches, gums, inhalators but always something made me give up giving up.

    Ecigs gave me an opportunity, not to give up, but to switch which has worked for me.
    I still get the nicotine but at reduced risk to me and at no risk to anyone else.
    My health has improved significantly since I switched, my COPD nurse is reluctantly impressed.

    I have become much more active and am now able to walk up hills again without struggling for breath.

    I no longer smell of cigarettes which is a bonus although I can now understand just how bad smokers smell as my nose is working again and I can smell flowers and stuff which is great!

    OK the plastic cig does look a bit naff but it works. (I’m thinking about buying an Epipe now as it looks much more fun and is in keeping with being a grandad)

    I was a bit self concious about Ecigs at first and tended to use Ecigs discretely but I have found that, in general people show an interest rather than ridicule it, especially when they realise that I am meant to be very ill.

    Stage two COPD is very bad, I am currently OK but stage three is much worse and stage four is very very bad as it is the end.

    I cannot avoid stage four now, it is to late for me but I truly believe that I have put stage four back significantly and am making the most of it. I wonder if I would have COPD now if I had found Ecigs 20 years ago?

    Hate them or love them the fact is Ecigs work, at least for me.
    I haven’t felt this fit for many years so if it’s OK with you I’ll stick with the Ecig.


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  9. The human fasciculus retroflexus “shows a special vulnerability to nicotine-induced neurotoxicity.” Nicotine is not your friend. It destroys you.

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  11. I think the trouble is that many vapers, unlike your interviewee, see themselves as “non-smokers” and thus feel duty-bound to criticise and look down upon smokers of real cigarettes. It’s a shame, because I’m sure that if more vapers had the same tolerant and open attitude of your interviewee then we could all work together for each other’s advantage – smokers could join the CAM-VIP campaign and work to make publicans aware that they aren’t risking a steep fine by allowing them; vapers could campaign for greater flexibility within the smoking ban which would allow smokers, vapers and non-smokers to socialise in comfort together in those pubs which refuse to be persuaded that vaping and smoking aren’t one and the same thing and remained scared of allowing either. As anyone who has ever run a campaign knows, the greater the number, the more power to your elbow. By working together for each other’s interests, rather than just our own we could all benefit and, hopefully, so could the countless pubs and clubs which have been so badly hammered by the ban.

    And who knows, with greater co-operation and acceptance between them, more smokers might switch to vaping or dual-use than is currently the case due to the feelings of hostility and division which is often evident from both sides, as indicated by some of the comments on here.

  12. I was having surgery for early stage lung cancer, found purely incidentally, I had no symptoms. I found the e cig great to stop before surgery, nothing else worked as I didn’t actually want to stop lung cancer or not. I had no problem using it in Guys only a whole host of people, patients, Drs. and nurses asking me where I got it. No one objected to my using or charging it in the ward, in fact I have never had an objection anywhere. I still use it and the odd cigarette, my choice but after smoking for 52 years I felt it would be worse to stop totally when I didn’t want to. My surgeon and Drs. were great, just told me what they considered the risks and left it up to me. No one was at all judgemental but maybe I was just lucky.

  13. Hi Jax, I think the hostility is silly too. Not only do smokers have the right to smoke if they choose, hostility is likely to put them off switching or becoming dual users.

  14. Hi Carol, It’s great to know it’s being accepted in hospitals – I hear many doctors are using it themselves too. Hope your surgery went well!

  15. Hi, I don’t know what the position is in other hospitals or wards as in Guys I was in a ward that was all lung cancer patients so perhaps they were more sympathetic. The surgery went fine, not nearly as bad as I feared from everything I had read about it but in this I think I was lucky as I was well before and am a quick healer. Still with cancer you never know from one scan to the next, mine never showed up on any X-Ray, only when I was having a CT for an unrelated condition. I couldn’t believe it as I felt fine and it took six months and two PET scans before I would let them operate. I don’t think about it much, I am not a victim, just unlucky and not brave, no choice really, I hate that sort of terminology. It has been almost a year now and so far so good, in my case I cannot fault the NHS I had first class treatment and they really check everything out now, by some miracle even the food in Guys was good. My NHS experience has not always been great but I have not one word of criticism in this case. I just intend to carry on my life the way I always have and if it comes back I will deal with that too. As I said on another post the alternative to smoking is not immortality.

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