The Politics of Hot Air

Posted by in Latest on September 01, 2016 . 0 Comments.

The first law of politics is, of course, that one must stick one’s nose into everything one can, even if it means passing legislation which is daft as a brush: It still proves that one is terribly important and powerful. Vaping is a classic case in point the world over. And it is indeed revealing to consider the whole wide world.  

Brickbrains in several countries have banned e-cigarettes; from massive Brazil to tiny Seychelles by way of Singapore, Norway, Panama, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and New Zealand. Some particularly annoying politicians, for example in Finland and Australia, opted for deliberate confusion by contriving laws whereby e-cigarettes can be sold but not the e liquids to fuel them, in much the same way as people really like an empty glass of wine...  

Presumably this was done because politicians like to be seen to be doing something and they don’t generally know what to do about most things. On the other hand, perhaps they want potentially deadly cigarettes to be legal and potentially life-saving e-liquids to be illegal because they really cannot abide the voting public and would relish millions of them dying asap. Who knows what goes on in one’s head when one is so damned important?... 


New Zealand To Un-Ban E Cigarettes
New Zealand is an instructive case, because its government looks likely to un-ban vaping, which has effectively been illegal there since Hon Lik registered his e-cigarette patent in 2003.  Naturally the Prime Minister, John Key, apologised; “I am truly sorry for the pig ignorant and draconian nastiness of our bonkers ban on vaping and I sincerely regret overseeing this blithe stupidity.” No, wait, that was a dream I had... He just hummed and hawed and hinted with positive comments about vaping.  

In all fairness, Key he has only been in power for eight years. And politicians are very busy and important: Enabling millions of people to drastically reduce their chances of dying from a deeply distressing disease is hardly a cause worthy of attention when one can jaunt about the planet looking glamorous and global on the telly. The poor man was in office for almost a year before he got the hallowed chinwag with Obama. It’s hard work proving you’re important… 

Key is not technically ‘a poor man’. In fact, he is technically stinking rich. In fact he is the richest MP in the country, reputed to be worth a cool NZ$50 million. And this might feed into his complacency about saving lives, because the lives most at risk in NZ are the lives of those pesky poor people, notably Maoris. 

The sensible people of NZ have often chosen to ignore their government’s gormless ban on equipment which might rescue them from death. For years they have been buying vaping paraphernalia and liquids online from overseas retailers. Unfortunately, that requires internet facilities, bank accounts and credit card authorisation – which is very often beyond the lowest socio-economic groups. But hey ho, who cares about those losers when you can get photographed by the world’s media with Barack and Michelle Obama at the Metropolitan Museum in New York? How cool is that?!... 

The NZ situation is at least moving in the right direction, albeit sluggishly. It would be nice to believe this might chivvy along the other brickbrains around the world who have cheerfully spat in the face of science and glaringly obvious sense. But, alas, the most influential country on Earth, the USA, is moving in the other direction, and doing so with gusto.   


US Anti-Smoking Group Posotive About E Cigs
This one is ominous. US anti-smoking groups – rarely noted for their level-headed sense of proportion – ran into a problem some years ago; the world and his wife agreed with them. Even smokers conceded that smoking was bad. And bans and restrictions were manifesting at a rate of knots in every state.  

It was rum times, trying to parade one’s virtuous beliefs when nobody was arguing with you. Their raison d’etre was going up in smoke until vaping came along. And – hallelujah! – this looked like smoking and was linked to smoking QED it must do similar stuff to smoking; in much the same way as a pint of water affects the human body in the exact same way as a pint of vodka…  

And it got better. The evil tobacco giants moved in on the vaping industry; the old enemy, pitching up for another battle, oh joy unconfined! The good times were back; shrieking and finger-wagging a go-go!  

Many anti-smoking groups were low-key, thoughtful and positive about vaping. Consequently, they made little noise. As ever, empty vessels make the most noise… So the perennially outraged types, harbouring in the fundamentalist wing of the anti-smoking campaign, bawled their empty heads off; championing the nonsense notion that the dangers of vaping were akin to the dangers of smoking.  

Their remarkable achievement – and it is all the more remarkable when one considers that they know not a jot about vaping – was to persuade the mainstream media to be wary of these sinister e-cigs. By happy coincidence, the media was particularly vulnerable to tosh at this time.  

During the last ten years – i.e. since e-fags were first marketed in the US and UK (2006 and 2007 respectively) – most of the traditional media has been charging downmarket in panic, chasing a dwindling number of consumers because the internet has rendered them superfluous to leisure time requirements. Dramatic, sensational and utterly dodgy stories abound. Claptrap about e-cigs exploding fitted the bill. So did the notion that we don’t know what is in this mysterious vaping liquid (as if it wasn’t actually made by humans who could read labels and mix specific quantities of specific liquids). And any half-baked research that suggested vaping just might be even a teensy little bit bad for you was seized upon as prima facie evidence of the apocalypse-in-waiting. This was Tobacco Giants Murder Folks Part II.    


Unbelievable And Alarming Statistics
The stats are alarming: six years ago 84% of smokers in the US believed vaping was safer than smoking. Three years ago that figure had dropped to 63%. A study in 2015 revealed that 33% of people who had stopped vaping and resumed smoking did so because they were worried about the health effects of vaping. 

The good guys in the global battle about vaping received a famous fillip from Britain last year, when the Royal College of Physicians concluded that vaping was about 95% safer than smoking. Attention was drawn to the notable caveat that no longitudinal studies have been done because vaping is too new, but even so there was some interesting and varied research to draw upon. And the Royal College of Physicians are just doctors with no axe to grind – worth heeding. 

In fact American public health mandarins came forward to say they found the RCP’s conclusions agreeable. It follows that they believe 95% of the 480,000 smokers who die each year in the US could, potentially, be saved by e-cigs. But this is politics and the right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. And even when it does know it might just flip the bird at it anyway. 

So we are left with the dispiriting spectacle of the FDA overseeing the vaping industry in the US; partly driven by public hysteria and partly pandering to the political will to just stick your nose and draw up some rules and regs and laws… and just generally interfere in people’s lives and ban what you can to show how important you are. 

This puts things in perspective in the UK. Perhaps we should even be grateful for the bumbling no-marks in Brussels who introduced daft laws earlier this year. After all, we could be stuck with a shameless PM who knows his country’s ban on vaping is stupid but drags his feet for eight years anyway. And maybe for longer; Key still hasn’t legalised vaping, though he did find time to visit Fiji this year where he looked damn important talking about the hurricane and historical bonds and blah blah who really listened?...  

Alternatively, we could be subject to a system driven by the perennially outraged, those noisy sorts who always want something done! They make up for in anxiety and anger what they lack in knowledge and sense. Alas, they are very good at shouting. One could say they live to shout. At least our rulers are just quietly clueless; content to inconvenience rather than prohibit. 

Tags: The Politics of Hot Air Last update: September 01, 2016


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