Yes, 2020 was going to be the absolute definition of a fun 356 days that we would come to call a year. Sod off 2019 [link].
The first week offered up an opportunity to use up any unused party poppers as Stanton Glantz wasn’t sacked but made the kind of announcement that men under a cloud make when they have been informed they’re as welcome as a burning bag of dog faeces on the doorstep [link].
The film A Billion Lives was made free to view [link], Andrew Cuomo’s bid to ban vaping in New York received an “unfortunate” kick in the private parts [link], and the volume of pro-vaping research continued to grow [link].
Oh, this was going to be such a good year.
Wait what? Suddenly Trump’s announcement that he was thinking about banning flavours [link], Public Health England announced they’d be axing funding for January’s Quit campaign [link], and Simon Chapman’s chums launching into the 95% Safer figure [link] began to cast a different light on the proceedings.
Linda Bauld valiantly stood up for evidence over emotion [link] and there was very positive news from the exhibition industry [link], but the direction of travel in the tobacco harm reduction debate could be gauged from stupidity elsewhere.
The Association of European Cancer League sounds like a really bad bunch of superheroes on Netflix – its TV series would probably be worse than The Inhumans. If this is outside your sphere of reference, imagine something utterly tedious. Then, imagine that tedious thing could actually get more boring. There, now you have The Inhumans. And, see this link works so well, The Association of European Cancer League were inhuman in banning people from attending its conference [link]. Not just vapers, advocates and vape industry people; it was using thought crime to identify people to ban: “Those who have any affiliation with tobacco or e-cigarette industry (current, in the past, or have future plans)”.
The Canadian Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health hated vaping more than I hate pineapple on pizza [link], Dr Andrew Pipe began to think he was a Terminator sent back to save us from the future [link], and United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams continued to be a tool [link]. Sorry, correction, a tool of the pharmaceutical industry.
Blimey, this year isn’t going so well, huh? We aren’t out of January yet and I’m already thinking about badly needing a summer holiday and cocktails.
“The Truth Initiative hasn’t yet blamed global warming, shrinking Mars bars or the ending to Game of Thrones on vaping – but give it time”, [link].
The UK government provided a factual update on vaping and EVALI [link]. ASH and Cancer Research UK told stop smoking services that if they weren’t offering ecig starter packs then they should [link]. Then a hospital in Plymouth announced it was encouraging vaping on site [link].
Maybe things aren’t so bad? Maybe we’ve turned the corner? Look over there, The Economist is talking about vaping being a “game changer” [link]. Oh my word, now the Trump administration is flagging up the possibility of ripping e-cigarettes away from the Food and Drug Administration [link]. Everything is going to be fine people. Once again, we can focus on how wonderful this year will be.
It’s not even worth bothering to fuss about Chris Witty, you won’t have heard of him but he’s the Chief Medical Officer for England, as he failed to make clear evidence-based statements about vaping [link]. Pay no mind to The Journal of the American Heart Association doubling down on its protection of the Glantz study saying vaping caused heart attacks 10 years before smokers switch to ecigs [link]. It’ll soon be Easter; we can gorge on chocolate.
A little thing called coronavirus raised its head in mid-February. It was delaying orders out of China [link] but we knew the threat of it coming here was as likely as us winning the lottery or actually receiving a delivery from My Hermes.
While nobody could get their online orders from Shenzhen and Hong Kong, The Journal of the American Heart Association eventually conceded that (after a year of pushing against it) it could no longer stand by the Glantz study [link].
Northamptonshire is the home to Goth music, having nurtured the band Bauhaus in its bosom, and the godlike writer Alan Moore. Most people fly through it on the M1 without giving the place a second thought, but the county’s Stop Smoking Service became a world leader when it embraced vaping [link].
Negative stories were contributing to a growing sense of worry about vaping in the British public [link] and the scaremongering was called out [link]. Trump, sensing vapers might hold the key to swing states, completed his 180-degree approach to vaping by promising to ban the vape flavour ban [link].
By March it seemed like this COVID-19 thing might not be going away in a hurry – much like Stanton Glantz. In fact, thinking about it, they share a lot in common as they are both a threat to health and loads of people don’t believe they’re real. Anti-vape campaigners sensed the virus offered them a great opportunity to have another go at tobacco harm reduction [link].
Oh, and everyone would be much happier if the pandemic and Glantz would just go away.
Come mid-March, the Prime Minister was telling everyone to avoid "non-essential" travel and The Independent Vape Trade Association issued COVID-19 advice to retailers [link]: “A rapidly changing situation such as the coronavirus outbreak calls for continued monitoring of the advice coming from Government and public health agencies. As the only trade association focused on the independent vape industry, we know that businesses have the safety of customers and staff at the forefront.”
Then the nation gathered around their televisions to witness Boris Johnson telling us all that the next day would be one like no other in living memory. Cars sat as ornaments in driveways. Pavements went unlittered.
A hush descended.
Remember January? Remember when everything was going to be fun? It was only three months ago. Remember when you didn’t have to worry about not having any toilet paper? Remember never having heard of Zoom? Remember functioning kidneys?
Still, it could be worse. You could be one of the school administrators who reported vaping kids to the cops only to be busted for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on strippers [link].