Dr Marewa Glover is pictured next to a hand holding a vape.

The Politics of Vaping

Dr Marewa Glover, Director of the independent Centre of Research Excellence: Indigenous Sovereignty & Smoking based in Auckland, New Zealand

This post is a part of our 2021 vape predictions.

One slogan from my radical feminist past seems highly relevant when contemplating what’s in store for vaping in 2021. “The personal is political” when applied to vaping, reminds us that an individual’s personal decision to switch from smoking tobacco to vaping has political implications.

Imagine if everyone who smokes suddenly stopped. How would governments have to change if they lost the not-insignificant tobacco tax income they extract from (disproportionately lower-income) communities? What would governments, without welfare systems, do if their hundreds of small farm holders who grow tobacco and their thousands of small family-run stores who stay afloat because of tobacco sales suddenly closed because every smoker switched to vaping? Almost 6 million Indian households economically rely on their women rolling beedi during the day in their homes. How would the Indian government replace that income for them?

Now think – what would happen if the 6.2 million people dying each year from a smoking-related disease didn’t die? What if the millions more whose well-being is sabotaged by smoking suddenly were able to and wanted to work? What if the health care system and all the associated industries serving the lung and larynx cancer, COPD and stroke patients were no longer needed? India already has a retirement age of 55 to free up jobs for younger people and they’re not the only country putting people out to pasture midlife.

COVID lockdowns have been devastating for business but that’s nothing compared to the economic and social crisis that would result from the sudden end to smoking that tobacco controllers are demanding. Governments have to manage the rate of change, and the consequences of too speedy a change will differ by country.

Vaping is not like the personal motor vehicle was to the horse and cart. Neither is it like electricity was to gas streetlamps or iceboxes. It’s a relatively new technology that threatens an existing product but the way the world works, the way legislative wheels crush or propel aspirations is different now for two reasons. Via all media combined (online and off) interest groups intrusively spread their propaganda around the globe 24/7; and, the interest group with the stronger propaganda (because they lack ethics) are supporters of larger governments and extensive government control over ever-minute aspects of our lives.

Vaping is not just a fight between an incumbent industry and a newcomer. It is not just one small step towards prohibition for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control cabal and their network. Thinking the vaping debate springs from these battles diverts attention from the benefits anti-vapers are chasing. As Winston Churchill warned, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

The destination for some is the freedom to take the risks they need to take, given their circumstances whatever they may be, to feed and protect their family. The destination for the anti-vapers is power and control, influence, awards and adulation. To be among the elite, not the exploited. To be among the healthy well-off, not the marginalised sick. To ensure that, they need to knock out their competition – keep them distracted by barking dogs, afraid and begging for protection.

People who vape, and their advocates, have diverse political loyalties (and rightly so). One consequence, however, is that some people who vape vote for politicians and political parties who will ban vaping, and snus and heated tobacco products. The connection between the personal act of vaping and the political isn’t understood.

2021 will be déjà vu for vaping. No decrease in smoking prevalence and no increase in vaping – as is happening in New Zealand right now. More nonsensical policies as proposed in Australia where they’re threatening to ban even the import for own use of nicotine e-liquid. The negative effects of COVID-19 and more so the totalitarian government responses will increase triggers to smoke offsetting tobacco control efforts to reduce prevalence. The anti-vaping lies will cause millions to relapse or veer away from even trying vaping.

This situation won’t improve unless more people find out that they’re being duped and manipulated every day – by their politicians, the media and their lecturers. So many nations are polarised with half their population voting for a kind of one-world globalism (as long as it’s their way of life the whole world will have to live by), and half are voting to save their national culture and identity. Half are voting for a version of socialism and half are voting for democracy, liberty and to stop excessive government control over what we can say, do, eat, celebrate, listen to, buy, sell, build etc.

Depending on the country, vaping is important politically because it signals, and can normalise, rejection of socialism if the socialist elite say ‘don’t vape’. If the horse has bolted, that is, vaping and support for vaping spread widely before the government could ban it (as in New Zealand), then the socialist elite will twist vaping into an act of submission to (signalling support for) the government. That is, they’ll say “switch to vaping”. Reality is – vaping was a personal discovery, not a political one.

Most politicians don’t care about vaping per se. Supporting vaping is about supporting individuals who have found a solution at market, without the government’s help. Supporting vaping, supports the industry that has grown up around vaping. Politicians who are anti-free market, anti-capitalist, anti-libertarian will struggle to support vaping for those reasons. Their political ideology, that causes them to take an anti-vaping stance, has personal consequences for the millions of people who currently smoke tobacco.

Though vaping is a personal decision, vaping is a political act, because politicians made it a political football.

2 thoughts on “The Politics of Vaping”

  1. I am in Scotland and spent decades delivering drugs education workshops to teens. Scotland has made big inroads into reducing smoking with our bans on smoking in public.
    Vaping here is many an adult activity so far. I see vaping as a way for the big tobacco companies to keep a hold on smokers and not lose out on recruiting teens to replace the adult quitters. I do not believe that vaping is a route for determined and heavi,y addicted smokers to quit.
    Even allowing for your arguments about governments losing tax income and poor people losing work I would still prefer that vaping was taken off the market for the long term health of us all.
    Over the last 60 years I have watched the mafia in all its guises exploit poor people all along the harvesting, processing and delivering harmful drugs of every sort that destroys lives especially of the poor. The killing of 300,000 children and adults used as drugs couriers in south America alone is one massive reason to curb such exploitation that provides no income to governments.only massive health and prison costs.

    Max Cruickshank
    Email [email protected]

    1. I can understand how someone who has battled tobacco and drug addiction for decades, and seen the lies the tobacco companies has spun in the meantime, can be suspicious of vaping.

      But tobacco companies didn’t invent vaping. I see vaping as a big threat to the tobacco industry, and wouldn’t be surprised if they were surreptitiously trying to undermine it. They would certainly take control of it from the independent vape industry if they could. In fact, control efforts in other countries, such as the PMTA process in America, is going to help protect combustible tobacco revenues.

      But still – in the UK alone, 2.2 million smokers have gone from smoking cigarettes to vaping to not using nicotine at all (Source: https://ash.org.uk/media-and-news/press-releases-media-and-news/in-2019-around-half-as-many-britons-now-vape-as-smoke-and-the-majority-are-ex-smokers/). How can that be a bad thing for public health, and how can it be a good thing for the tobacco industry?

      If you are still sceptical, do try talking to some of the many vapers who tried and failed for years to quit smoking before finally coming across vaping.

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