As a vaper, you probably just want to enjoy your vape, appreciate the fact you no longer smoke and get on with your life.
Chances are, though, after a while you’ll get people attacking you for doing so.
The hidden reason behind this is the huge amount of money being spent on anti-vaping campaigns.
That’s resulted in a slew of misinformation, and the attempts of bodies like the Royal Society of Physicians, Cancer Research, Public Health England and many more seem to carry little weight against hysterical tabloid stories and social media messages from people who know nothing about the science of smoking and vaping.
So please join us today as we take a stroll through the strategies you can use to defend yourself.
These strategies do depend on knowing more than the other person.
First, although it’s not always easy, it’s key to stay calm and show respect to the other person.
Avoid any personal attacks on the person, as that instantly brings up a self-defence mechanism which shuts down reasoning ability.
Unfortunately, getting angry with the other person will only cement opposing views.
Clarify what the other person means
While getting angry at other people can cement their views, clarifying what they mean can often do the opposite.
That’s because people like to feel they are being understood.
For example, if someone starts ranting about how vaping causes popcorn lung, you could say?
“So you are saying if I vape I will get popcorn lung, and therefore I’d probably be better off smoking cigarettes?”
Another alternative to saying someone is wrong is to ask people questions to find out why they hold their opinion.
For example, you could politely say:
“It’s interesting that you think vaping causes popcorn lung. Why do you think that? What is it about vaping that causes popcorn lung? How many cases have these been linked to? Why do you think these cases haven’t been reported to the UK Yellow Card scheme?”
Very often the person won’t know, and simply highlighting that can prompt a rethink, especially if you can help them with evidence.
A confused or incorrect answer can also prompt follow-up questions. Using the example of popcorn lung, for example, you could say:
“Why do you think popcorn lung is a potential danger in the UK when the ingredient that causes popcorn lung is banned in UK e-liquid?”
Find out the source
It’s also a good idea to find out where they got the source of their view/argument/point.
Quite often this will be a story in the tabloid (quite shockingly, one professional told me that even many doctors get their medical updates from tabloids) or something they heard from a friend.
You then have the opportunity of contrasting this with other sources. Which brings us to:
Ask them why they think public bodies and charities think vaping is 95% safer than smoking
Another thing you can do is to combat one source with another.
I don’t think any other government has put as much time and effort into assessing the research into vaping as the UK.
One key element in their favour is that they achieve no financial gain from promoting vaping.
(Arguably, they may even lose revenue as tobacco sales decline.)
They’ve also involved scientists from highly respected charities such as Cancer Research UK.
Their claims are also cautious and sensible (no one is claiming vaping is safe, only (much) less harmful than smoking) - which is in stark contrast to some of the hysteria from those who attack vaping.
This all makes them a great source to present as a counterbalance. You could also pose this as a question:
“Why do you think the UK government and Cancer Research UK argue that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking? What motivation would they have for lying?”
Keep it simple (for the most part)
A mistake I often make myself is to get into details.
After 15 years of reading, talking and writing about vaping, I sometimes get knowledge blind, and forget that the person I am talking to knows very little about the subject they are giving their opinion on.
For the most part, facts, figures and studies don’t change people’s opinions.
What can change people’s opinion is (true!) stories - for example, when someone switches to vaping and then experiences an improvement in health.
As a vaper, you can share your experience and that of friends.
Again, you can also refer to sources people respect, and point out some of the bodies and governments that state that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.
(Sometimes) bring out counter evidence
However, and depending on the person you are speaking to, it can sometimes be worth bringing out counter evidence.
For example, if someone references the famous heart attack study on vaping, you could ask why they think the study was withdrawn, or why the heart attacks happened before the subjects started vaping.
Point out the alternative to vaping
People often contrast vaping to breathing fresh air.
However, for most people, vaping is an alternative to smoking.
People switch to vaping from smoking, or try vaping instead of trying smoking.
And there’s absolutely no doubt that smoking will eventually kill many smokers.
So you could ask:
“When you say vaping is dangerous, do you mean it is worse than breathing fresh air? Or are you saying that smokers would be better off not switching to electronic cigarettes?
You could also point out the million plus people who have switched from smoking to vaping - and then gone on to quit nicotine entirely.
A couple of tricky areas
There are a couple of difficult areas.
For example, disposables are hard to defend when they cause so much harm to the environment.
The best answer is to switch to refillable devices. (Here’s how.)
There’s also a problem with children vaping.
Unfortunately, the same people who sell tobacco, drugs and alcohol to children will also sell vapes to them.
The government is planning a crackdown on this, but I have more hope that the UK will follow the same path as the US, where youth vaping turned out to be more of a trend than an epidemic, and youth vaping rates have plummeted in recent years.
Don’t expect too much
Unfortunately, human nature and society mean we get presented with a vast array of opinions in the media and on social media.
We lack the time and energy to research every one of these opinions, and so adopt many of them without having the expertise to know if they are all correct.
(Ironically, being involved so deeply with vaping has made me much more cautious about adopting new opinions!)
However, once we adopt an opinion, we are often reluctant to change it, and tend to twist or discard new evidence to suit our worldview.
Sometimes the best you can hope for is to put enough doubt in people’s minds that they leave you alone to enjoy your vape in peace!