Thursday, 17 July 2014


Smoking is fabulous. The first fag of the day takes you gently by the hand , then leads you through to the kitchen for coffee while the delicious digestif of a post-meal puff blesses you with even more tastes to savour. So yeah, I like smoking, preferably 15g of rolling tobacco a day. But, its as mad unhealthy as it is expensive so I’m now into my 5th week of complete no-smoking thanks to an e-cigarette, vapouriser, electronic shisha thing (and 24 mg bottles of  nicotine oil) making me – for the time being – one of those are “60 percent more likely to report success if they switch to e-cigarettes than if they use nicotine products like patches or gum, or just willpower”  just identified by University College London. The fact e-fags appear to work is why the anti-e-fag stance confuses the hell out of me.  

What makes them work so well is that besides nicotine, they give you the hot sensation at the back of your throat and something to inhale/exhale. But, because its steam not smoke, they’re a lot less unhealthy (one doctor recently said on a Radio 4 Analysis programme that if cigarettes are 100 on a scale of 1 to 100, e-cigarettes are 10) both to the “smoker” and all those around them.

So if there’s no passive smoking, health and safety being the rationale for the smoking ban, why can’t e-fags be used inside? The main arguments appear to be that their health effects aren’t fully understood (so better safe than sorry) and that they “re-normalise” smoking. 

Re: Better safe than sorry, well this can go fly because e-cigarettes are a damn site less bad than the real thing and in our “nudge” society that counts for a lot. As for the second, well this just confuses me. The picture above makes clear how in the US they’re desperately trying to make e-cigarettes cool (it also makes clear any US attitudinal based research isn’t especially applicable to Britain!) so here’s what you do instead – ban all advertising and product placement. There, sorted. As for the issue of kids taking up e-fags cos they're cool, possibly, except, as with alcohol and real fags, this is a retail issue and needs some perspective, which is e-fags are nowhere near as bad as the real thing

In the meantime, the British bans on “smoking” e-cigarettes inside are actively “de-normalising” e-fags. By this I mean, smoking is a habit and a cluster of physical addictions, which for me meant stepping outside to smoke. I (currently) don’t smoke, but still have to head to smokers' corner for a puff because the bans taken away the habitual and cultural differences between puffing on a real and on an e-fag. And by keeping the same habits in place the bans make it easier to fall back onto the real thing again; right now much of the anti-smoking lobby appears opposed to the best aid to giving up smoking ever invented!

In the meantime I think there's another reason for the bans; e-fags have completely bypassed the existing anti-smoking industry, rendering much of it a government grant funded irrelevance, which they don’t appear to like one little bit i.e. reading an Ash Scotland note on e-cigarettes, every benefit is acknowledged only to be immediately caveated and the threat of Big Tobacco flagged up as a not necessarily relevant bogeyman given the Chinese made e-fags and small scale British oil manufacturers and retailers that have sprung up, (there again Ash does appear to be trying to wangle a new e-fag funding stream as I type this).

(revised/tweaked  July 30th)