Something I saw on Dick Puddlecote a few days back has been niggling at the back of my mind. And I think it’s actually relevant to the Smokers’ Army meme being explored on threads here recently.
It featured Madsen Pirie giving a one-minute talk on vaping. DP himself added his approval of the talk:
“In a nutshell, this is the whole debate. If anyone you know asks about e-cigs, send them this.”
Here’s the video:
And here’s a transcript of the first half minute:
“Look, the fact is that vaping works. It’s the most effective means yet developed for helping people who want to give up smoking to actually quit. Public Health England has come out saying it’s 95% safer than smoking cigarettes. In fact they were being cautious. It’s probably 99% safer. Look, nicotine is like caffeine. Here at the Adam Smith Institute we’re relaxed about that: we drink coffee, and some of us even vape. Yet antismokers want to limit it. They say it normalises smoking. The EU specifies a maximum size for the liquid containers…”
Well, yes, it actually is the whole debate about vaping, but not in quite the way that DP probably thinks.
First off, Madsen Pirie thinks that vaping was something developed to help people give up smoking. And indeed I think that the Chinese inventor of the e-cigarette, Hon Lik, was trying to do exactly that. But it seems to me that what he actually succeeded in doing was to invent a whole new way of smoking. It’s as new a way of smoking as once were the pipe, and the cigar, and the cigarette. The pipe was probably the oldest, and then the cigar, with the cigarette as a newcomer barely 100 years old today. And now the 21st century has spawned what seems to be multiple electronic cigarettes, as different from each other as all the thousands of different motorcycles that appeared after the invention of the first one, or the thousands of different planes that appeared after the Wright brothers first got off the ground for a few seconds at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903.
For there are now people who prefer vaping to smoking. Or prefer their particular vaping devices, for one reason or other. The vaper – homo vapor? – is a brand new species of smoker. And what is now happening is a (richly deserved) absolute catastrophe for Public Health. There they all were, trying to stamp out smoking, and actually being quite successful about it, when – boom! – a completely new way of smoking appears. It’s a bit like an army having fought its way to take control of a line of enemy trenches – only to find that there is another line of defences beyond them, one the generals knew nothing at all about.
For myself I belong to the species homo rollie. I smoke roll-ups. And I have no wish whatsoever to stop smoking them. I’ve tried a couple of e-cigarettes, but I much prefer real cigarettes. And also I’ve completely ceased to believe anything that is said about tobacco or smoking. I have no faith whatsoever in the “experts”. And that loss of faith is something that extends to all the so-called “experts” trying to ban or restrict alcohol, sugar, salt, fat, meat, fast food, etc, etc. They can all go fuck themselves, as far as I am concerned. In fact my disbelief in experts extends way beyond just disbelief in Public Health “experts”: I’m beginning to have difficulty finding any expert in anything in whom I I feel able to place any trust. But that’s another story.
For me, the only thing about e-cigarettes that was at all attractive about them, was that they might have a), been a bit cheaper than real cigarettes, and b), it might have been possible to smoke them in places where smoking real cigarettes was banned. But Tobacco Control/Public Health have moved rapidly the close off both of those possible advantages. E-cigarettes are now classified as no different from real cigarettes. And a whole series of “research papers” has been rushed out to show that they’re just as bad as smoking, and quite possibly a great deal worse (which is exactly what happened when cigarettes first appeared, and began to shoulder aside traditional pipes and cigars).
So I think that Madsen Pirie has completely missed out an entire class of smokers who, like me, simply see e-cigarettes as an alternative to real cigarettes, much like aspartame is an alternative to sugar, or powdered milk is an alternative to whole fresh milk. We don’t want to stop smoking (or eating sugar, or drinking milk). In fact, we’re getting more and more determined to carry on smoking (and eating sugar, and drinking milk), come what may.
Madsen Pirie seems to be one of those many people (in fact, most people) who firmly believe that smoking tobacco is bad for you, and who regard this as being an established and unquestionable fact of life (when in fact it isn’t). I dare say that DP is of the same mind. And Chris Snowdon. And countless other people. And actually theirs is the majority opinion.
And I think that there’s something of a division opening up in the ranks of smokers over vaping. For some vapers are as antismoking as any zealot in Tobacco Control. And some are not, like regular commenter, the Last Furlong. In fact, it may be that vapers and cigarette-smokers and pipe-smokers and cigar smokers and tobacco-chewers and snus-suckers are all quite different species of people, with cigarette-smokers remaining predominant. And that’s a possible obstacle to putting together any sort of Smokers’ Army.
In addition, Madsen Pirie seems to place some sort of faith in Public Health England. Do I need to tell anyone that I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in Public Health England? I think they’re all a bunch of crooks and shysters and con-men. And the sooner they’re de-funded and disbanded the better.
And also he seems to be one of those people who believe that the active ingredient in tobacco is nicotine, and the active ingredient in coffee is caffeine. And maybe they’re right, and it can all be boiled down to something as simple as that. But to me that looks exactly like saying that the active ingredient in pretty women is big tits. Well, maybe it is. But I think that pretty women have all sorts of other ingredients, that count just as much. In fact, I’m not sure that regarding pretty women as having a set of ingredients at all is likely to be the completely wrong way to think about them. And what applies to pretty women also applies to coffee and tobacco and pretty much everything else.
And don’t, please don’t, get me started on Adam Smith.
So within half a minute I was disagreeing with Madsen Pirie about almost everything he said. And that’s why what he had to say summed up the whole debate: we disagree about everything.
Which is why I felt impelled to write about it.
As an addendum, I think vaping has got a great future. I think that in the years to come there will be the vaping equivalents of Cadillacs and Ferraris and Jaguars. And I suspect they won’t all contain just tobacco or nicotine: I think they’ll contain an entire confectionery of drugs. But that’s just my guess.