Saturday, 30 April 2016

Obscured by clouds

The past decade has seen a dramatic rise in the popularity of vaping, i.e. using a non tobacco-based nicotine delivery system, often somewhat misleadingly described as “e-cigarettes”. From the outset, it was clear that this had the potential to bring about major health benefits if large numbers of people switched from tobacco. It could be the long-sought game-changer in reducing tobacco use worldwide.

However, vaping has never been welcomed by the public health lobby, for a variety of generally spurious reasons:

  • It wasn’t invented here, i.e. by Big Pharma
  • To some extent it mimics tobacco smoking, so it must be bad
  • Some people may view it as a recreational activity, because of course any human pleasure has to be discouraged
  • It acts as a gateway to “proper” smoking
  • It may involve a small level of health risk
But there’s a growing body of evidence that the health risks involved in vaping are hugely less than those of tobacco. Even if the risk is greater than zero, then discouraging people from vaping is in effect encouraging them to continue smoking tobacco. We often hear of “harm reduction” in relation to drug policy, so why shouldn’t it apply here too?

Last week a report was published by the respected Royal College of Physicians arguing that there was no proof that vaping acted as a gateway to tobacco, and that the evidence that it was safer than tobacco by several orders of magnitude was overwhelming. Given this, the correct response should be to encourage it, or at least facilitate it, not demonise it.

"The ideal is for people to use nothing," said Linda Bauld, a professor at Stirling University, deputy director of the U.K. Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and a co-author of the RCP report. But when the alternative is smoking, people should be encouraged to use nicotine "delivered in a cleaner form than in deadly cigarettes."

"This is what tobacco harm reduction is — it reduces the harm from tobacco while recognizing that some people will still use nicotine in other safer forms."

The anti-smoking group ASH UK welcomed the report, saying it showed "that switching to vaping is a positive and sensible life choice" for smokers.

"Electronic cigarette vapour does not contain smoke, which is why vaping is much less harmful," said Deborah Arnott, ASH's chief executive.

Ooh, I bet saying that stuck in a few craws, but if such militant anti-smokers are saying it, you have to assume the case is pretty overwhelming.

I wrote here about how many major pub operators, particularly Wetherspoons, had decided to impose a blanket ban on vaping inside all of their venues. The reasons given were that it could be difficult for staff to distinguish vapour from tobacco smoke, and that the sight of vapour might cause some customers to feel uneasy, but really those are just excuses. With a bit of thought, it shouldn't be difficult to manage it, and why couldn’t pubs have distinct vaping and non-vaping zones? Now, where have I heard of that kind of idea before?

In the light of these research findings, isn’t it time these pub companies reviewed their stance to started to take a more accommodating line. As it stands, by forcing vapers out into the cold with the smokers, they could be seen as standing in the way of improving public health. And they might even find that their business benefited too.

Let us hope it also means that the Welsh Assembly Government’s draconian plans for indoor vaping bans, including all food-serving pubs, which were recently narrowly defeated, are now dead in the water. In any case, after next week’s elections, the Welsh Assembly may have a rather different political complexion and include more supporters of individual choice.

(For the avoidance of doubt, I haven’t smoked tobacco this century, and have never vaped, although I know a lager drinker who has)

37 comments:

  1. I seem to recall it was only the other day on twitter that some wibbler was grizzling to you about how The Miasma from vaping caused him migraines, nosebleeds and probably caused his potency problems...or something. And then there are The Children to consider, bad enough they might see adults drinking ALCOHOL or sweet FIZZY drinks in a pub but one glance of a Vaper will condemn the little wee mites to a life time's addiction to smoking...on the game by the age of ten to finance their addiction and dead by 18 from POPCORN lung!

    Seriously though, if the writers of PUb Guides would start to deduct points from pubs that didn't allow vaping then maybe that bunch of lickspittle quisling customer haters that call themselves 'publicans' would wake up and smell the Fruity Jazz vapour. But they won't, they didn't want the custom of smokers so why would they want vapers' custom? They will want to concentrate on their core demographic of under 7's and providing them with hand pumped by Alpine virgins at full moon, organic glacier water with a subtle non GMO thai lemon grass infusion....nut free of course.

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  2. Thurston McCrew30 April 2016 at 22:31

    It seems to me that vaping is a bit like Linda McCartney's Vegetarian Sausages.
    Or a three-skinner with a filter in it.
    What's the bleedin' point ?

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    1. The point is it enables people to stop smoking cigarettes without the withdrawl symptoms. Vaping delivers the nicotine but without the stuff that causes cancer.

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  3. Agree, no reason not to allow vaping in pubs. Smoking too. However I totally disagree with the line from ASH and the rest that vaping is a good alternative to smoking. The best alternative to smoking is not smoking. Promoting a substitute fails to recognise that smoking is nicotine addiction, and that's truly all it is. Replacing one form of nicotine with another is not the answer. I'm with Allen Carr on this, and happen to think groups like ASH are counter-productive to say the least.

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    1. that smoking is nicotine addiction

      You say that like it is a bad thing. It isn't and as addictions go I would challenge the notion that nicotine is all that addictive . 'Addictions' aren't automatically 'bad', aren't necessarily things that need to be combatted. "Destructive addictions" like alcoholism (I'm a dry alcoholic) are 'bad' things, my -now into it's 3rd decade-opiate painkiller addiction however allows me to lead a normal-ish life and hold down the toughest job going.

      And if smoking was just about the nicotine I, and every other smoker, would be taking it in tablet form.

      One of the things I did take from Allen Carr was that nicotine addiction and it's withdrawal are so mild that it is barely worth the name. Or as, i think AC, put it- heroin addicts will be woken by their addiction, smokers won't.

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  4. All pubs should have a smoking room.

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    1. Your heart is in the Right Place but no, not quite. Every publican should be allowed to decide the smoking and vaping policies for his Public House. Any publican worthy of the name will know what his clientele want. There would be totally Smoke & Vape free pubs -mainly catering for the vegan-guardian reader-cyclist community, there would be 'vaping only' pubs, mixed pubs, pubs with 'smoking lounges' etc etc

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    2. Yes, that's pretty much my view. Let the licensee and the market decide, taking into account the preferences of the customers, and you'll end up with a wide variety of provision.

      Can't see those Guardian-reader pubs being too popular, though...

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  5. You can bang your 'freedom of choice' drum as much as you like but you're never getting smoking in pubs back, and vaping is next, regardless of the rights and wrongs.

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    1. Followed in the fullness of time by alcohol, of course.

      But smoking bans have been relaxed in other countries, so I'm not totally resigned to fate.

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  6. Following ElectricPics comment above it's time smokers started to defy these silly laws. After all there are plenty of us and we are the true pub customers anyway. Oh yes smoking will be back in pubs along with vaping. So ElectricPics you'd better prepare for it !

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    1. The problem is that the legal liability for smoking in pubs rests on the licensee, for "permitting smoking". If it was solely the liability of individual smokers, then the ban would be completely dead in the water.

      I look forward to great fun with these council bans on smoking on beaches and in parks, as they can hardly prosecute themselves ;-)

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  7. Yes and if there was an option of smoking/no smoking pubs then no smoking pubs would die. ASH and all these tosspot non smokers who never went to pubs anyway know that. Hence no options allowed. We need to take back our pubs from the Puritans. As you say they will ban alcohol next !

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    1. See this post. The reason why antismokers are so reluctant to allow *any* smoking in pubs is that it would demonstrate just how small the genuine demand for non-smoking provision is, at least for drinkers as opposed to diners.

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  8. "Yes and if there was an option of smoking/no smoking pubs then no smoking pubs would die"

    What year is it where you live, 1975? Here in 2016, less than 20% of the population smokes. The idea that you can make a business selling booze to the same small group of hardened drinkers and smokers is yesterdays news. The "regulars" of the 1990s all died of lung cancer and liver disease.

    Any business that immediately ostracises 80% of its potential customer base is bound to fail. Most under 40s would smell the fug and just turn round and walk straight out of the door again. There might be a small niche market for smokers' bars in cities, but they'd be competing for a small and shrinking number of customers.

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  9. Many of those 80% are the kind of prissy people who would never go to pubs anyway. Even now, smokers are considerably more likely than non-smokers to visit pubs.

    And most non-smoking pubgoers are actually tolerant, sociable people who are happy to socialise with their smoking mates, rather than joyless Guardianistas who prefer to sit in splendid isolation looking with contempt at the dirty plebs.

    And if you're so confident of the result, why not give it a try and see if you're proved right?

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  10. "smokers are considerably more likely than non-smokers to visit pubs."

    Which isn't the same thing at all as saying that pub-goers are considerably more likely to be smokers than non-smokers.

    For an intelligent, rational man, you don't half descend into some Daily Mail style strawman bashing polemic at times.

    You know perfectly well that I support a partial reversal of the smoking ban. For one thing, I don't think it would make much difference. I can hardly think of any pubs that I regularly go in that would even consider for a split second re-allowing smoking in the main bar - and I go in plenty of keg only, working class, wet led pubs as well as the classic middle class ale house/craft beer emporium.

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  11. "And most non-smoking pubgoers are actually tolerant, sociable people who are happy to socialise with their smoking mates."

    Of course they are - and the vast, vast majority of smokers are courteous enough to understand that their non-smoking mates don't want to sit in a cloud of cigarette smoke, so when they need a cigarette they pop outside or lean out of the window or similar.

    This is just reality now. The culture has shifted from the 90s. Blowing smoke into someone's face is no longer even remotely socially acceptable, and non-smokers are no longer willing to sit in a smoky bar. Most smokers don't even consider it acceptable to smoke in their own homes when they have non-smoking guests - in fact I know several smokers who don't smoke indoors full stop, because they don't want their house to stink of fags.

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  12. This PY must live in a vacuum. Outside of the country that is London most of us regular pub goers smoke. None of his 80% are ever seen in pubs. If the law allowed it i would open a pub for smokers. A vast amount of money could be made and all the non smoking pubs would be empty. Live in the real world PY and butt out of our pubs.

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    1. I've lived most places in England, but never London or the south east.
      I would wish you luck in your venture, I fear like most naive amateur landlords who think they can survive on the custom of a small group of hardened smokers, you'd soon find your savings gone forever.
      Speaking on behalf of the majority of happy regular pubgoers, why don't you butt out of our pubs?

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  13. @PY - maybe, even if the ban was completely reversed, most pubs wouldn't allow smoking in the main bar area, although I'd expect some little basic one-room working-class boozers like the Pineapple in Edgeley and the Albert in Withington would do.

    However, I would expect most pubs apart from a few up-market dining venues and achingly trendy craft wanker places to make some accommodation for indoor smoking. If nothing else, pubs could fully enclose and heat their current draughty outdoor smoking areas.

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    1. I go to plenty of pubs that don't even bother with outdoor smoking areas, because it's simply not worth the hassle as the vast majority of their customers don't smoke. As less and less people smoke, the will be less and less need to make special efforts to accommodate them

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    2. Well, as we know, things in the beer bubble are very different from the real world.

      I can't think of any pub I regularly visit that *could* provide some kind of covered outdoor smoking facility but doesn't, although some obviously make more effort than others. Some of the best in the local area are:

      Arden Arms, Stockport
      Armoury, Edgeley
      Railway, Marple,
      Royal Oak, Edgeley

      Clearly there are plenty of landlocked pubs in urban streets that aren't in any position to provide an outdoor area apart from the street.

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    3. This is getting silly. Neither of us live in the "beer bubble", so why keep using that as an argument?

      The most likely places to see a big smoking provision are big working class family food dispensaries like hungry horse pubs.

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    4. I refer to the "beer bubble" because your experience of pubs often seems to be dramatically at variance from mine - and indeed that of Martin Taylor, who goes in a lot more pubs than I do.

      Over the course of each couple of years, the local CAMRA branch organises a series of pub crawls which aim to cover the vast majority of pubs in the area. So I'd say I get a pretty good impression of what's going on - it's not as if I just confine my drinking to a limited range of trad pubs.

      Given that smokers are considerably more likely to be pubgoers than non-smokers, it's entirely likely that many pubs have a 33-40% smoking clientele. It's not a tiny minority. Very often there seem to be more people standing outside the Jolly Crofter (an archetypal working-class keg-only boozer) in Edgeley, and smoking, than there are inside.

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    5. Well by the sounds of it, the type of pubs you go in tend to be middle class beer emporiums in the craft beer bubble of greater Manchester, whereas I tend to go to a wider variety of run-down inner city pubs (where middle class fakers like Red Nev wouldn't last 5 minutes) and village pubs, in the midlands and east Anglia.


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    6. Ah yes, pubs like the Armoury, Boar's Head and Griffin are well-known as middle-class craft beer emporiums :P

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    7. @PY - it would be good if you could give us some examples of these run-down inner city pubs, and village pubs, that you're visiting. I doubt whether there are any run-down inner city pubs in Cambridge. Martin, Simon Everitt and I could compare notes with you.

      I've been pretty open about specific pubs I've been in - why not you? As you knoe, I'm a mild-mannered, middle-aged, middle-class chap. But there isn't a single pub in Stockport I'd be frightened to go in.

      And it's interesting that the Magnet, undoubtedly the most "crafty" pub in Stockport (as opposed to bar) has a very comfortable, well-appointed and well-used covered smoking area. I should have added it to the list of four I gave earlier. There's plenty of room for smokers at the Crown down the road as well.

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    8. No, I don't think there are many at all in Cambridge, although The Ship has had its issues and there is a fight in Spoons more weeks than not.

      However, I did previously live in, and still frequently visit, Nottingham and Mansfield though, which has more than its fair share of rough pubs. I used to know the barman at the Gregory, and was a frequent visitor to plenty of others round Radford and Hyson Green.

      Talking of pubs in Radford, the Plough is a nice pub, a bit run-down but not really rough.

      Stockport's quite posh. How many pubs in Cheetham Hill do you frequent? I stayed in a hostel there once.

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  14. I know loads of pubs that would convert a bar to smoking allowed and transfer themselves into very viable businesses if only these non smoking tosspots were overcome.

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  15. "if only these non smoking tosspots were overcome"

    With a public service ethos like that, how could you possibly fail?


    Smoking is dead, everybody knows it. Vaping was the final nail in the coffin. When the current generation of addicts die out, cigarettes will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

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    1. I'm not sure that vaping has so far brought about a massive reduction in smoking prevalence in the UK, and of course if it ends up being restricted like tobacco its potential for growth will be limited.

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  16. All you want is choice and freedom.

    But woe betide anywhere that chooses not to offer what you think they should.

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  17. PY lives in his own little bubble. Smoking tobacco will never die because it is very enjoyable and perfect with a pint.

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    1. ok mate, just like it hasn't halved in the past 30 years.

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  18. Lots and lots of young smokers taking up the mantle where i live and in the real world.

    ReplyDelete

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