Not Blowing Smoke and Misleading Messages

Posted 22nd July 2016 by Dave Cross
Stefan Didak from Not Blowing Smoke (NBS) presented to the Global Forum for Nicotine. NBS was set up following “the worst smear campaign against vaper products ever seen”. Didak is referring to the “Still Blowing Smoke” campaign carried out by the Californian Department of Public Health (CPDH) in March 2015.

The CPDH spent seven million dollars of taxpayer money on social media campaigns, TV adverts, print magazine ads and billboards. Didak received advance notice that the CPDH were set to embark on their war and immediately set about buying the “Not Blowing Smoke” Internet domain. So he spent $12.

Thirty-eight hours later, Didak had created the website to rebuff the lies emanating from California. In the process, Didak noticed the CPDH had failed to register Still Blowing Smoke on Twitter and Facebook – and gained control of those. One hour after the launch of “Still Blowing Smoke”, “Not Blowing Smoke” went live. According to independent analysis, the effort by the CPDH “fell flat after a couple of days” whereas Didak’s countermeasures went viral.

Appeals came in from across the country asking Stefan to produce something similar for their individual states, but time constraints and lack of funds prohibited such a response. “So, if we are going to do something like this, we’re going to have to do something a little more serious – a little more professional,” Didak says. “Because the main narrative in all of the smear campaigns is pretty much the same. The same reaction you want to give it should also be the same.”

It took a couple of months of cogitation for him to decide that further response would have to be carried out in a professional and transparent manner; transparency being incredibly important given the need to raise funds and avoid allegations of being a front for Big Tobacco.

After a further eight months, “It’s time to take our simple narratives, to explain really complicated things – and the FDA Deeming regulations are very complicated.” was born, driven by a mission to translate legal-speak into plain and understandable English. The new site provides free downloadable information for stores to print out.

Didak has also launched a website called VapersVotingGuide. This came about when he discovered many vapers are not registered to vote. Unlike Britain, it is impossible for members of the public to meet with American politicians unless they are registered on the electoral role and, consequently, their voices can’t be heard. He believes this is a vital move given that America is in the grip of a Presidential election.

But after these side issues, Didak’s team realised that something was needed to counter the general smear campaigns taking place nationally and internationally. From this drive, the No More Casualties campaign was produced with the tagline: “Don’t make me a casualty of your war on smoking”.

Didak adds: “The idea is the opponents are locked into an ideological war on smoking because that’s all they know. If you explain to the general public and the mainstream media that it’s all about money…and public health organisations…and big pharmaceuticals, people will not like the idea of going up against big money. People will like the idea of going up against an ideology applied to products.”

The campaign has TV commercials, print advertisements, billboards, radio commercials and social media accounts – all provided for free to businesses to include in their own marketing campaigns. “One of us is not as powerful as all of us,” he concludes with an urge for vapers to share the images and messages.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker