The threat facing the vape community today is as real and dangerous as it has ever been. Currently, the UK Government and the Scottish Government are considering implementing strict legislation banning disposable e-cigs.
Product flavours are undergoing repeated attacks and, along with the colour of product packaging, are being blamed for a rise in teen use.
Who presents the voice of the consumer when conversations are being held? Who argues for evidence and facts to be considered before emotive arguments?
Back in the day
The birth of vaping in its modern form dates from 2003 when Chinese inventor and pharmacist Hon Lik launched his version. It was a project born from love and loss, inspired by the demise of his father from a smoking related disease.
Hon Lik’s device wasn’t successful simply because it was good to use and efficient at delivering nicotine. It took off because tobacco consumers discovered there was now something better to help them stop smoking having had multiple failed quit attempts with gums, sprays, patches or going cold turkey.
Hon Lik’s invention led to a few similarly operating ‘cigalikes’, disposable devices with the outward appearance of a cigarette – but massively inferior to the devices being sold today – which worked for people to use where smoking wasn’t allowed but couldn’t deliver nicotine efficiently enough to replace smoking for most.
Enter the consumer
When the number of vapers in the United Kingdom was so small everyone knew each other by name, the shared enthusiasm drove people into the kitchen to develop new flavoured e-liquids and to their sheds to improve the operation of mods, tanks, and atomisers.
Vaping becoming popular was the result of several factors, not least the growth in internet speeds and online forums, enabling discussions between consumer enthusiasts to happen daily.
The UK hive mind mainly operated through two internet sites: UK Vapers (now closed permanently) and Planet of the Vapes. Almost every aspect of any modern vaping device can be traced back to chats taking place in 2010-13, and the inspirational work carried out by vapers on their lathes at home.
Being a consumer driven entity, fuelled by the enthusiastic drive to obtain a better vape experience, and with a shared bond of mutual support, the vape community grew as hundreds of new devices were released per week. It caught politicians and scientists flat footed; vaping had become huge before they even knew what it was.
The first consumer organisation
Come 2012, the main response to electronic cigarettes was a knee-jerk ‘it looks like smoking, treat it like smoking’. Many of the objections to vaping were rooted in ignorance. Some consumers banded together, and The Electronic Cigarette Consumer Association (ECCA) came into being.
ECCA was “a non-profit association that exists to protect consumers’ rights, to provide correct information about electronic cigarettes, and to represent consumers’ interests to the industry.”
Vaping had grown from an estimated 310,000 users in 2010, to 650,000, as measured by the Smoking Toolkit ‘Trends in electronic cigarette use in England’. ECCA spoke for them all.
Professor Robert West, part of the University College London team responsible for the Smoking Toolkit Study, highlighted the growing problem in 2014.
In a press release accompanying the publication of some of his research, Prof West called for his peers to focus on truth and research evidence instead of massaging data so that the results support an ideological position.
A group of powerful and influential academics had taken to routinely spreading myths and very poor-quality science online and in newspaper articles. Worse, they were using ad hominem insults to attack consumers pressing for honesty and integrity.
A political response
To address the growth in opposition to vaping, the reliance on pseudoscience to push anti-vaping agendas and the influence of money at the highest level of political decision making, ECCA gave way to the New Nicotine Alliance and a new political party, Vapers in Power, was created.
Vapers in Power was a “one issue” political party, formed to highlight the forthcoming problems with the European Union’s impending Tobacco Products Directive, aimed at protecting “the voice of vapers and uphold the right of smokers and ex-smokers to practise harm reduction using all types of e-cigarettes.”
Of particular concern: the threat to ban vaping in outdoor public spaces, to ban vaping in private outdoor spaces with the permission of the owner, and to ban indoor vaping with the permission of the owner.
The New Nicotine Alliance
With Vapers in Power rolling down the shutters one final time, the New Nicotine Alliance is now the only consumer voice in the United Kingdom.
Rather than simply being a collection of vaping enthusiasts like those who formed ECCA, the New Nicotine Alliance was created by a group of vapers with strong links to “leading smoking and tobacco researchers and policy analysts”.
A registered charity, New Nicotine Alliance is truly independent from any industry influence, operating solely on donations from individuals and fundraising activities.
All of those who work on behalf of the charity do so on a voluntary basis – and its achievements are quite impressive:
- Regularly meeting with MPs and sharing research evidence
- Challenging product bans in court
- Presenting at public health conferences
- Reacting in the national media
- And much more
As a voice for consumers, the New Nicotine Alliance relies on its network of supporters – something that is free to join and enables you to receive information on how you can help the charity further the cause of delivering evidence to key decision makers.
Currently, the NNA is urging vapers to join in with action leading up to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Tenth Conference of the Parties. The charity is giving guidance on how you can write to your MP.
If you fancied becoming even more involved, the New Nicotine Alliance is seeking out people who can donate their time to serve as a trustee on the charity board. Something that Ecigclick Editor has just done herself.
Vaping in the United Kingdom has been a mainstream activity for over a decade and challenges continue to present obstacles to greater adoption by smokers. Could you be a consumer advocate to help knock those barriers down?