The Future of Vaping: Why Do People Hate Vaping? Will Attitudes Ever Change?
It’s easy to get lost in the continuous stream of scare-stories about vaping and attempts to treat it in exactly the same way as smoking, but in many ways, it’s strange that vaping has such a fervent opposition in the first place.
As a product used almost entirely by smokers, which is likely many, many times safer for users than smoking, why should there be an opposition to vaping at all? What is it that makes people hate vaping? And will things change in the future, when the now-unavailable long-term evidence surfaces?
The Future of Vaping: Table of Contents
Home: The Future of Vaping
Part 1: Why do people hate vaping? Will attitudes ever change? (you are here)
We asked the advocates why vaping is having such a PR problem in the first place:
In short, prohibitionists won the PR campaign. They are better funded, better organized and better experienced than the vaping community. It’s surprising we got as far as we did without vaping being crushed in its infancy.
Nick (Grimm Green):
People don’t hate vaping. People think they hate vaping because a lot of the mainstream media is using scare tactics and bad information to scare the public into hating it. If people hate it, it’s easier to tax and regulate the hell out of it. Because it looks like smoking, people think it’s the same as smoking. People think we’re trying to indoctrinate the next generation of ‘addicts.’ The media likes to use scary sounding works like ‘chemicals’ and ‘aerosol’ and ‘addiction.’ The truth is: it’s harm reduction – we’re trying to reduce the harm in our lives.
People hate vaping for a few reasons. For years as smokers, we have been demonized by our peers, our health experts, tobacco control, and even by our kids’ education. Propaganda, skewed research results and the inability to recognize vaping as a completely different action from smoking don’t really help either.
The propaganda is coming from sources that are well funded, mostly by tobacco taxes and other government funding. Even health bodies have their fingers in the tobacco tax piggy. Then you have the general population that believes what they are told by these organizations instead of finding out information for themselves. If they did that, they would be better informed and might change their minds about vaping altogether.
A lot of the time people hate what they don’t understand and what we’re facing is a combination of not understanding and a high degree of misleading propaganda in the media, put out by the very public health groups that should be all about public health and not the money generated by extra tobacco tax that sustains their jobs and programs. That creates the public perception that it’s not just something they don’t understand but that it’s something that’s bad and harmful and that leads to people ‘hating’ it, because they are being influenced in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways to feel that way about vaping.
Some people hate vaping for the same reason some people believe in God and some don’t, for the same reason some people are liberal and some are conservative: it all depends on what position you heard first. If someone told someone they trust that vaping was terrible, then that someone will believe vaping is terrible. Once a person stakes out a belief it is very hard to convince them otherwise. Only truly objective people can be swayed.
It’s the same reason that every four years we elect a president by attempting to persuade that 20% of the population that is capable of independent thought and reasoning. Sounds harsh, I know, but it is the truth. Maybe 1 in 5 people possess the ability of critical thinking, and everything that ever happens depends on those people and those people alone.
Will Things Change?
In the future, misleading information of the type that’s led to the widespread mistrust of vaping we see today will be harder to reconcile with a growing body of facts. Far in the future – quite far in the future, admittedly – we will have long-term evidence on the safety of vaping, and although there are likely to be some risks, it’s almost certain that they will be vastly smaller than the risks of smoking. If vaping is still around, will this be enough to change attitudes?
How’d that work out for marijuana?
Yes and no. The evidence is something that does never go well in the legislative field, because the sad reality is that politics trumps science, every time. The evidence of reduced harm, however, combined with good strategic public relations efforts and wider awareness campaigns, to help undo the damage done by misleading information put out there by our opponents, would go a long way in helping with that.
Do I think there will be a change in attitude about vaping? Yes, it’s possible. All it needs is one sentence from this president or the next one; ‘It’s certainly better than smoking.’ If “a” president would say that there would be a massive change in the way people think they feel about vaping overnight. Non-vapers don’t really know what they believe; they simply follow. What they hear first is what they adopt. The whole thing is kind of sad, but typical of our species.
If we have the evidence available then we have the best weapon to fight for this product. Look how far medical and legal marijuana have come in the last 5 years. It will take time, but we can always change things.
Can We Learn From What’s Happened With Snus?
Swedish Match, one of the biggest snus manufacturers in the world, recently submitted an application to be acknowledged as a reduced harm tobacco product. Without putting too fine a point on it, this is without question, and the long term evidence actually is available. Despite this, it isn’t going too well. The refusal to acknowledge the evidence on this case doesn’t seem to bode well: does vaping even stand a chance of getting such approval?
It’s pretty clear from where I sit that the FDA has no intention of ever allowing something to be blessed as reduced harm. The case for snus is pretty cut and dry and was backed with a lot of data and cash, yet it fell on its face.
Nick (Grimm Green):
I do believe so yes. Vaping is very straight forward. Three ingredients getting inhaled. Studies are currently being done, and the studies we do have only re-enforce what we have known all along, which is that vaping is a much safer alternative to combustible tobacco.
Maybe, but in order for that to happen there has to be someone capable of critical thinking in a position to make a difference. Of course it’s harm reduction, but the truth isn’t an issue here, it’s the ability of the powers that be to accept it. Are they capable? I have no idea.
Conclusion – “Politics trumps science, every time”
There may be some disagreement among the advocates, but Stefan Didak’s statement “politics trumps science, every time” seems to stand out as the core issue. The reason vaping is struggling with a PR problem isn’t because the science isn’t there yet, it’s because the media, politicians and plain-old prohibitionists are successfully diverting the issue from being, “does the available evidence suggest that e-cigarettes will be good for smokers?” to “should we condone something that isn’t risk-free?”
Of course, the second question is more of a rhetorical trick than a legitimate point (would you say we “condone” drinking alcohol? What activity or substance actually is “risk-free?”), but the goal – shifting people’s thinking on the issue from a harm reduction perspective to an absolute risk one – is accomplished. The opponents of the technology have been successful in shifting the focus away from the almost-certain benefits to the intended market and towards hypothetical concerns about risks to non-smokers who start vaping.