Some feared that 2016 would be as great for vaping as Chris Evans was for BBC’s overhauled Top Gear. A year ago, the first comment on the article looking at how the year might pan out said: “It’s crazy when you think about the changes to vaping just in the last 12 months. With this forced change I wonder what the market's going to look like 12 months hence?”
Rather than battle commenced, it was a case of the opposing sides lining up their forces and preparing for 2017. Of course, against the backdrop of impending legislation, we should all pay heed to the words of Clive Bates (especially those in charge of the Tobacco Products Directive): “One mistake legislators often make is to assume that everyone will comply with their laws and act in the way they expect. This is unlikely, and I expect to see the considerable ingenuity applied to subverting this directive and showing how worthless it is.”
Sarah Knapton of The Telegraph kicked off the new year in rambunctious fashion with her article “E-cigarettes are no safer than smoking tobacco, scientists warn”. It was described as a “most dangerous, irresponsible, and ill-informed piece of health journalism”, to which she then launched on a flurry of blocking people who disagreed with her from her social media accounts.
There was a reasonable attempt to look at aldehydes in vapour, Doctor Farsalinos gave us a study emphasising the harm reduction aspect of switching to vaping, and then there were the jokes. “Some commercially available e-cigarettes contain enough alcohol to impact motor skills,” declared a Yale study. This, it needs to be added, is one of the USA’s leading universities. A man using vaping as an excuse for his drink driving later in the year (and found guilty) proved what utter nonsense this study was.
Researchers attacked vaping for allowing smokers to continue smoking, according to their research. It was the kind of study that drew caustic comments from David Sweanor; he attacked the anti-ecig lobby for being blinkered and aiming for a moralistic goal.
Rounding off January, a vaper caused a plane to be grounded in Hawaii, someone brought Eurostar to a halt by setting off a toilet fire alarm, and Kevin was “engulfed in flames” from his mod as he slept.
Those stories pretty much sum up the next eleven months. Stories about explosions continued no matter how many times we advocated carrying spare batteries in safe packaging, to avoid shorts. Research with close ties to pharmaceutical funding frequently suffered from poor design or incompetent analysis. Harm reduction advocates spoke out in favour of vaping and highlighted the benefits – but the media continued to seek out the most salacious angles in order to boost page hits rather than report the news as truth.
In America, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) both did their bits for the Tobacco industry. CDC’s Tom Frieden continued to drone on about gateway effects – despite not being able to point to a shred of evidence that vaping is causing any increase in smoking in any demographic. In fact, a latest analysis of CDC data proves how overblown his claims are (but more of that later this month).
In fact, their actions in 2016 (and those of Surgeon General Murthy) are described in a Forbes article as follows: “Our lead public health agencies—CDC, FDA, and the Surgeon General’s office—have been shamefully derelict in their duty to improve the health of smokers who cannot quit through conventional methods or will not quit. Many of the nation’s millions of smokers would surely switch to reduced harm alternatives if they knew the truth about them.”
It is almost possible to forget about some of the highlights in amongst the too and fro. Like, for example, the moment the Welsh government’s push to ban vaping from public areas fell to pieces. Not, as you would hope, because of the weight of expert opinion (that had certainly been put forward and duly ignored). No, because of a moment of ineptitude that typified the slipshod approach they had to the subject.
The Houses of Parliament witnessed an upsurge in support for vaping as a tool of harm reduction. Positive comments were made during Prime Minister’s question time, an MP attacked “anti-ecig whingers” in her column, and Viscount Ridley sparked a spirited attack on the TPD in the House of Lords.
Unfortunately, neither Lord Callanan’s Lords vape vote nor the vote for Brexit resulted in the over-turn of the TPD. Legislation was also being put in place across the rest of the world. Some countries used the World Health Organisation’s position on vaping to justify their complete bans; others (like Canada) relied on their own dubious research data. Across Europe, countries were obliged to include the TPD into their own legislation. According to ECigIntelligence, half of the countries missed the deadline to do so.
For independent British companies this was a year like no other as they ploughed money and time into preparing for 2017. All of this will mean nothing to the average vaper – they are still upset that Marmite went up 10 pence a jar. Maybe they will get over it and be joining Toby Kilroy in wondering how the vape world will look in twelve month’s time.