Simon Clark is getting on my tits.

Ok, firstly, to give him his due, Simon Clark, director of Forest, has been a good advocate for e-cigarettes. I’m not sure I can think of a single thing he has said about them with which I could disagree. Forest explains that it advocates for e-cigarettes because many smokers use them and they wish to represent the interests of those consumers. That’s great, no problem there.

The reason that Simon is getting on my tits is his complete failure to understand vapers. Not smokers who vape, vapers. Just like Simon Chapman, Martin McKee and other assorted cronies he seems to think that vape advocates are some single organised force with a shared position on all things smoking and vaping related. We are not. We are a diverse community of people with a wide range of opinions on smoking. It’s only when the subject turns to vaping that we have broad agreement on anything at all. This is why when we form into organisations, and there are many, we stick to the subject on which we are united – vaping – and avoid subjects upon which we cannot reach consensus.

in a blog published today Simon criticises Fergus Mason for saying:

“When we smoked we were willing to accept sin taxes and restrictions, because we knew that fundamentally they could be justified by evidence.”

The quote was not attributed and no link was posted to provide context, but Fergus’ full blog is here.

It seems clear to me that Fergus is talking about the harms to the smoker, but even if not, if Fergus believes that second hand smoke is harmful to bystanders he is entitled to his opinion. Simon then goes on to ask where the evidence is for a total ban on smoking and various other tobacco control measures, but completely ignores the fact that when these things are discussed in the media, and in particular social media, vapers far outnumber smokers in their criticism of these measures (here is just one example, there are many more).

Pretty much every vaper I have met believes that ecigs are an effective tool for tobacco harm reduction, if we didn’t believe that we wouldn’t vape – we’d still be smoking. In order to believe that you must first believe that smoking is harmful. It’s hardly surprising therefore, that we join forces with existing tobacco harm reduction advocates from within public health and academia. Of course we disagree with some of them when they advocate for illiberal non-evidence based policies which restrict freedom of choice for consumers and we are quick to say so.

If Simon Clark wants to unite smokers and vapers in the fight against such policies he would do well to remember that vapers are not smokers, some may have differing views on smoking, and for our organisations, the battle is the regulation of vaping, and not necessarily smoking. As individuals we choose whether or not to take on particular smoking battles and many of us do just that. Turning smokers against all vapers by picking out individual comments and criticising them as if they were the official view of the vaping community is counter productive.

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