The year began with POTV’s predictions that British vapers would enjoy a period of calm while international ones would continue to face challenges, and so it came to pass. Britain has seen a number of bodies including the Royal College of GPs coming out in favour of vaping, and three reports released by or at the Houses of Parliament confirmed that the establishment has taken to harm reduction.
We wondered if 2018 would bring about a consensus to start relaxing restrictions on vaping. Public Health England (PHE) called for workplace vaping to be allowed, echoed by a parliamentary select committee, and a concerted push took place to promote vaping in mental health settings.
While POTV ate canapés in the Palace of Westminster, outliers such as Martin McKee fumed and took to writing articles attacking politicians, PHE, and inventing new smears about vaping itself. A newspaper for children printed McKee-fuelled lies about harm reduction, and our coverage resulted in the rudest yet most entertaining email POTV News has received to date.
The Motley Fool blog believed Big Tobacco would begin its move into the independent sector, and none was bigger than the beginning of partnership negotiations between Altria and Juul Labs. Does this mark the end of Juul’s flush of success? The constant attacks, its response and the limit to nic content in Europe have certainly taken away some of its shine – but the company has owned most of 2018.
The year has also seen a shift in how public health attacks online vape advocates. In January, researchers at the Keck School of Medicine sought to legitimise accusations of social media users being “astroturf” or “bots”. An identical study was released in August too. It was a theme that persisted all the way up to the highest echelons, recently the Surgeon General of the United States accused this author of being an “anonymous bot” in order to avoid responding to a polite question.
On the subject of America, the growth in opposition to vaping has been very sad to see. Flavour bans in counties and states, a Food and Drug Administration going full-tilt with its ‘teen epidemic’ lie, and campaign organisations producing disgusting anti-science marketing campaigns. Clive Bates predicted the death of vaping in the States ‘as we know it’ at a conference in November; nothing but basic pod and cigalike devices and tobacco flavours.
The downside for vapers has been the loss of well-loved companies. Vapourart closed its doors in January, others followed over the months, and news broke in December that Eden Mods were to cease trading – a desperate shame for those hoping to see the long awaited squonker. Operating in a saturated market has proved difficult for many long-standing companies and POTV hopes they find calmer waters in 2019.
We wrote in an April piece about how the market boom extended to brick & mortar stores, evidencing the plethora of shops in one small provincial town. Rationalisation in this sector of the industry is inevitable over the next twelve months. On the positive side, research was released saying that vape shops could help drive a high street boom.
For a while it appeared that Squonking might be under threat due to the bottle capacity, but traditional juice companies did groan under the volume of cheap foreign shortfills being loaded onto vape store shelves. It is likely that the UK will see action taken to include shortfills in the same legislation applied to nicotine-containing eliquids.
Advertising restrictions for the UK have been clarified and relaxed, but not before complaints were investigated. Greyhaze were asked to remove an advert but given a clean bill of health during the investigation. A similar complaint was lodged against POTV and two advertisers a couple of months later, but no further action will be taken due to what we discovered from the earlier ruling.
Junglist wrote: “The use of discount codes, when applied to products that are caught by TRPR, are not allowed. But this also means that discount codes to promote products that do not include unlicensed nicotine containing products or their components are allowed. So all of market vendors who wish to run adverts on sites such as POTV are able to do so as long as the banners do not link directly to the site that is being promoted - and as long as any discount code is clear that it is not intended for use with products that are regulated by the TRPR.”
Global successes have included Canada and New Zealand’s enlightened embracing of tobacco harm reduction – something that shines a light on Australia’s intransigence and rising smoking rates. Italy has rolled back restrictions, including its onerous vape tax rate, yet Sweden (as noted elsewhere this week) has seriously stumbled in its approach. Thailand is exceptionally confused, corrupt politicians with vested interests are driving India, and South Africa is in the grip of zealots. Uganda even set up a Bloomberg-funded hotline for the public to “grass up” vapers.
From all the stories we’ve covered, the high point has to be the release of the UK Government Science and Technology Committee report on e-cigarettes. Described as “a beacon of enlightenment”, it could yet prove to be the most influential document for a global approach to tobacco harm reduction. Well, maybe the second most important document after the “Protect and Duck and Cover and Survive” booklet.
Planet of the Vapes would like to thank all of the academics, politicians, advocates, business owners, and everyone else who has helped us with information, advice and been generous with their time – and a massive thank you to all of you who read these pieces each week. We wish you all a very merry Christmas and the best for 2019.