Category Archives: Vapelife

A Civilised Event

I had the opportunity on Thursday night to attend an event hosted by the Merseyside Skeptics Society. The guest speaker was Robin Ireland, and the topic looked interesting.

Why vapers think that e-cigarettes will lead to the ending of cigarette smoking and why their optimism may be misplaced.

Here is how the event was described on the Facebook invitation.

Electronic cigarettes are a hot topic and not only in public health forums. Public Health England have pronounced e-cigs as around “95% less harmful than tobacco”. However the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in America and the World Health Organisation take a much more precautionary stance. The latter view ‘Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)’ as having potential public health benefits but these are yet unproven. Robin Ireland, a Liverpool-based public health advocate, will discuss the evidence as much as it is available in the context of tobacco control efforts in England.

Robin is Chief Executive of Heart of Mersey and the Health Equalities Group originally established in 2003 to address the inequitable levels of heart disease and stroke on Merseyside. Robin was awarded his Master of Public Health at the University of Liverpool in 2007 and was elected Member of the Faculty of Public Health through Distinction in 2015. His position on e-cigs has led him to be vilified by vapers on social media whilst the Institute of Economic Affairs has branded the Health Equalities Group, “Sock Puppets”.

In all honesty I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The title of the talk appeared to be designed to be inflammatory, but knowing a little about Skeptics societies, I didn’t think the audience was going to be an easy one to bamboozle, if that was the intent.

I arrived at the venue early and spent some time in the bar chatting to the locals (predominantly about e-cigarettes and the physical effects of stopping smoking lol). I was joined by Adam Williams (Rojeans). Who had history with the speaker, having appeared on radio a couple of times with him. As we moved into the meeting room and took our seats Robin spotted Adam and commented that he knew he could expect some tough questions from our section of the room. Their greetings were cordial, almost jovial.

The presentation was split broadly into two sections. The first was on the subject of tobacco, and its effect on the health of the population of Merseyside. There were slides with details of life expectancy in the Merseyside area, a comparison of life expectancy in various areas of the UK and information on how smoking prevalence, which is high in the area, is believed to be a major contributory factor to comparatively low life expectancy levels in Merseyside.

To open the second section of the presentation Robin started with a slide about abuse he had received on Twitter. I’m not sure how this was really relevant to the topic at hand, though he did at least acknowledge that not all vapers were the same and that equally his topic, which assumed to know what vapers think, would not be true of all vapers.

He did a good job of outlining his reasons for concern about vaping. These could broadly be described as a concern that bill boards and flavouring were not aimed at adult smokers, but at children. A real worry that renormalisation could undo much of the hard work he had put into reducing smoking prevalence, and a large dose of ‘We don’t know what the long term risks might be’. Dual use and long-term vaping both came up for some criticism.

I felt that he was less thorough in presenting what he thought the alternative viewpoint was, though perhaps this was to be expected.

With the presentation over and a break for everyone to take a trip to the bar. We settled back down for the Q+A session, and that’s when the evening really livened up.

The questions were generally well thought out and I was pleased to see that when the speaker didn’t know the answer he had the courage to say so rather than attempt to blather. What was particularly amusing was the way that questions were not only directed at the speaker, but at the vapers in the room. After Adam asked his question and identified himself as a vape shop owner, several questions were directed our way. A cell biologist joined in on the subject of nicotine addiction, and a psychologist commented on the propensity of humans to experiment with mind altering substances.

I don’t think you could say that by the end of the evening any conclusions had been reached, but the event was entertaining, educational and above all civilised.

Adam particularly commented that he felt Robin Ireland’s position had mellowed somewhat in the two years he had known him. He’s been listening, and the emphasis on Tobacco Harm Reduction which was a feature of Adam’s participation in the Q+A did appear to be taken on board.

I had the opportunity to spend a brief time after the event chatting to Robin, and personally I found him to be quite likeable. We talked about the TPD and the issues I believe this is going to cause. My specific question during the Q+A had been about whether he was concerned that the legislation would hand the vaping industry to the tobacco companies.

He asked me about how likely I thought the TPD was to lead to shoddy black market goods flooding the UK market. My reply basically said I was very concerned, as I was going to end up using black market nicotine and I was deeply concerned that there would be little way of telling if it was the grade or strength that it purported to be.

We agreed that there are some nutters on Twitter and that I probably knew more about the wording and implementation of the TPD than he did. He came across as someone open to hearing alternative viewpoints, even if sometimes his background and training made it difficult for him to accept them. A thoroughly civilised end to what was a thoroughly civilised event.

Abi Cottrill

The E-Cig Summit

Vapers in Power was given two passes to attend the E-cig summit. I went along with Paul Barnes (FDM blog). We are very grateful to the Summit for giving us the opportunity to attend. This post just aims to give an impression of the day itself from an advocate’s perspective. The Ashtray Blog and and Facts Do Matter have already given very informative accounts of what happened.

Vaping advocacy is a very online affair so getting away from the keyboard and actually meeting people in the vaping world is always a surreal experience. This one took the (posh) biscuit though.
The Royal Society is a very impressive setting and I could have happily spent a long time wandering about in there (doubt the staff would have welcomed that though). It’s a beautiful Georgian building, designed by John Nash. It’s huge with enormous rooms and a staircase which goes off both ways at the bottom. You could easily imagine balls taking place there. It was a very plush affair with top notch cheese straws and Twinings tea.

In terms of vaping advocates it was a who’s who. Networking was obviously of paramount importance and so I didn’t really do any (!). I met a few people who I’ve “seen” and communicated with online- always one of the best aspects of real world vaping events. I loved meeting them all: if I ever get stuck in a lift I hope it’s with another vaper. The vaping community is populated by clever, funny, compassionate and very individual (often off the wall, in the best way) people. (“Unconventional” is probably the word I’m struggling for.)

The programme was jam packed. The organisers and the chair, Ann McNeil, managed to keep the timetable on track. This was no mean feat (Dr F!). They did it very diplomatically, with humour and charm and without looking ruffled. Honestly (and I have already declared my COI here, free pass) if I ever needed to host a posh event (unlikely as that is) I’d be gutted if Amanda couldn’t organise it. The programme (8.55 am to 5.30 pm with 3 breaks) packed in 18 presentations plus 4 panel debates. Oliver Kershaw couldn’t do his presentation so it finished on time. By the end my head was buzzing with Powerpoint slides. Professor Abrams at the end was a relief partly because his presentation centred on shapes (that was kind of the point of his presentation too).

Oliver not presenting was a real shame because it would have been the only presentation given by someone who represents consumers. Andy, Lorien and Sarah from the New Nicotine Alliance did a fantastic job on behalf of vapers but they only appeared in the panel debates: the NNA didn’t have a presentation slot. Andy Logan (Vape Emporium) was the only vendor voice, again only in a panel discussion.
I appreciate why the presentation slots were dominated by tobacco control, scientists, regulators and various public health people,  reasons hinted at in the introduction in the programme too:

“What I hope the Summit will do is facilitate understanding around the areas of deepest concern for scientists, consumers, public health and industry.”

Yes it’s a crucial time to be influencing the regulators and policy makers, including the delegates from the Department of Heath and the MHRA who were there. It’s true too though that the vaping revolution only happened because we vapers wanted it and the vendors and manufacturers sprang up to supply us. Is the commitment to “Nothing about us without us” (voiced by some of the speakers) only lip service?  If so is this an inevitable consequence of the PHE review and the acceptance of e-cigs amongst many professionals: do they feel compelled to take ownership?  If memory serves me well (it doesn’t always!) there was a slide from Roseanne O’Connor of PHE listing the stakeholders who had been consulted. There was no mention of consumers on that slide, unless we were referred to by an unfamiliar acronym. (please also see Alan Beard’s excellent post on this)

Charlotte “Many studies indicate harm” Pisinger deserves an enormous clap on the back for turning up and the organisers need to be applauded too for getting her there. Apparently other naysayers were invited too but declined the invitation. Charlotte deserves a lot of respect for that imo, makes her a decent human being. She looked nervous, probably expecting to get lynched by the nasty vapers she’d heard about (of course she wasn’t). No questions were encouraged at the end of her presentation so Dr Farsalinos asked her one in the panel debate instead-she still didn’t answer it but it was good try.
I wondered why Louise Ross didn’t have a presentation slot (maybe she presented last year). Andrea Crossfield (Tobacco Free Futures) gave a presentation about stop smoking services’ perceptions of vaping. It was filled with the obvious. That’s probably why so much of this is frustrating: we are waiting for professionals to catch up with what we already know, and they can’t because they have to have evidence (otherwise they wouldn’t be professional!). I was really surprised to hear Louise say (in the panel debate) that prescribing ecigs probably won’t help because variety is too important to users. I’d have expected a stop smoking practioner to be pushing for prescription ecigs so I was stuck (yet again) by the integrity that Louise has.
Jim McManus was fantastic. The Summit was filmed so hopefully everyone will get the chance to see his presentation. He’s since published a brilliant blog post which anyone concerned with vaping and public health needs to read.

The Summit reinforced my impression that the professionals in our corner (such as Linda Bauld, Clive Bates, Dr Farsalinos, Peter Hajek) are very genuinely passionate about this. Some of them have swum against the tide for a long while, at risk to their professional reputations. Brave people – we are lucky.

At one point me and another delegate, Andy Morrison, found ourselves outside on the forecourt (in order to vape unrestrainedly) and the doorman asked us not to smoke (“any sort of smoking isn’t allowed”).   We moved and he later apologised for not realising that vaping isn’t smoking. That real world difficulty wasn’t addressed in the Summit though. Peter Hajek gave a presentation about how to deal with misconceptions about nicotine (i.e undoing the harm done by decades of minsinformation by tobacco control). The common misconception that vaping is smoking really needs to be tackled too.

Something else which needs to be addressed urgently is how schools should deal with vaping. I hope that PHE are developing a fact sheet for that (along with the vaping in the home one which they mentioned).

Also I’d have liked to see more discussion about the part which decent vendors play in getting people onto vaping. It’s remarkable how the best vendors are so skilled at supplying smokers and vapers needs, without having had any state guidance or interference at all to help them do it. I’m not suggesting that regulation in this area is desirable (quite the opposite) but it could have been helpful to have a session evaluating what good practice is and how it can be shared with all vendors and stop smoking services.

It’s unrealistic to expect a one day event to address all the issues –and that’s probably why the agenda was so crammed. I should say too that at the end the organisers really did their best to get vapers to comment and ask questions and I’m ashamed to say that it’s only now I’ve thought of several.

The time is right for an Advocacy Workshop – watch this space!




What’s your Vaping story?

Our vaping stories are some of the most powerful weapons we have when it comes to convincing politicians, medical professionals and the general public about how effective vaping can be.

Tell your story! Add it to the comments and it will be added to a growing body of stories from across the world in many languages and from every continent. Plans are afoot to create a database where every story can be found. Your story will be included in this database.

If you are happy to leave your real name and where you live that would be fantastic. It would help make sure these stories cannot be ignored by the sceptics, but the important thing is your story, so if you aren’t able to leave your name, PLEASE still leave your story.

Christine’s Story

We recently asked people to write down their vaping stories so they would have them to hand when communicating with politicians and the media. Here is Christine’s story.

Hi there.

I live in the wilds of Western Australia. I was born in England and now I am quite peeved that I moved to a country which seems to be so corrupt in so many ways.

I am 62, I have been a smoker for 47 years apart from the times I was pregnant, which took an enormous amount of willpower to stop but each time I landed back on the cigarettes.

I grew up in London where everybody seemed to smoke, we used to go to a tobacconist on the way to school to buy 1 or 2 cigarettes at a time. By the time I was 15 my Mum (who still smokes a few even though she is 83) started handing me a few fags here and there and we smoked together.

She smoked all the way through 3 pregnancies, but by the time I was of childbearing age it was obvious that smoking was dangerous for our babies so I quit by the time I was three months pregnant. It was so damn difficult but on reflection I think guilt tided me over. But it was a short term solution and each time I landed back on the ciggies.

Over the years I have tried everything to quit, all the usual NRT’s with the exception of Champix as I have always suffered from intermittent periods of depression and constant anxiety attacks, plus at times suicidal thoughts, so after researching it, I realised this would be a very dangerous path for me to take.

I had a friend staying with me who was using vaping equipment, Mr 40+ a day smoker and it seemed to help him to cut down at least.

By this time I was totally depleted of energy and spent most of my time in bed or on the sofa, having had to let my business go as I couldn’t possibly drive the 35 mins to my office, this by the way was at a great financial loss, but I had no choice.

So just over a year ago I hit rock bottom, I had increased my smoking to 35-40 per day, I was coughing so much all night that I became incontinent, this was the final straw for me so I ordered a starter kit from an Australian Vaping Company, with tobacco flavoured cartridges with no nicotine and from day one I was able to cut down my smoking dramatically, but I still craved the nicotine.

So I joined a forum and a lovely member gave me some of her equipment which was much more satisfying and the batteries lasted almost a full day, I really haven’t looked back since.

Then I found out about this hideous case against Heavenly Vapours and I fell into a state of fear, not just for my own life, but for many others. I have lost precious loved ones to smoking related diseases and I thought, oh here we go again!

So I have been trying everything in my power to support these guys, both financially and by spending many hours each day trying to drum up support for them and to discredit the hypocritical Health Dept and the Cancer Council.

Vaping is saving my life, I am a completely different person to the sad one I was a year ago, my health and energy are returning and I will do everything in my power to support HV as this is such an important case which simply must be won.

Another thought I have just had and would like to add that I can think of at least a dozen people I know, both friends and family who have given up smoking, basically by cold turkey or with NRT’s but all of them have put on massive amounts of weight and are now suffering lots of other associated problems with being obese, such a shame to see.

But amazingly I lost 1.9 kilos in the first week, mostly because I gained back my zest for life and for the first time in years have started taking regular walks and made a decision to cut down dramatically on carbs and sugar, you see I have hope now rather than feeling like I was before “waiting to die” and my Doctor who was a bit cynical when I told her I was vaping is totally astounded and is now quite passionate about finding out the benefits of vaping, additionally she is shocked and dismayed that the CCWA and the Health Dept have taken this ridiculous stance.

I am so disgusted at the corruption in regards to this marvelous new technology. For the last year I have worked my butt off trying to get the truth out and finally I feel that we are making some sort of headway.

If you would like your vaping story published here please send it to

Going smokefree? Gone smokefree

Break out the party balloons, those crazy assed poppers where you find the streamer stuff and end caps for years afterwards. Let’s have some jelly and ice-cream, trifle, and maybe, just maybe we’ll have some beers or cider if you prefer.

It is time for a little celebration! Why am I in such a good mood? Well, grab a drink and I’ll tell you. Might want to turn the music down a bit first. Continue reading Going smokefree? Gone smokefree

The Philosophy of Vaping 1

The Meaning of Life.

“Existence precedes essence” Sartre, 1946.

We are – before we decide how, to be.

I used to smoke, I happened to identify as a smoker. This, thanks to both the truths and untruths propagated by “Public” Health, entailed a set of beliefs about my life. I thought I was harming myself (mostly true), I thought I was harming others (possibly exaggerated) . This mixed the pleasure of smoking with feelings of self-disgust and guilt. Nonetheless, I continued, for many, many years. Untold tens of thousands of cigarettes. Each one a moment of pleasure and a tiny explosion of self-hate. Next time you see an anti-smoking ad campaign, you might like me, remember that although it had no effect on my smoking it did increase my guilt and lower my feelings of self-worth, tens of times a day. That’s helpful, “Public” Health.

Jump to now.

I vape.

The pleasure remains, the self-loathing is gone.

I am proudly a vaper. I exist and I am happy. I vape for the nicotine, I will not die from the tar.

So what has this got to do with the meaning of life? Well, I’m coming to that …

Life is (as Talk Talk sang) what you make it. Whatever meaning we find in our lives, we are free to decide. Those decisions enhance our lives and create new selves. I can now decide how to be.

There is an almighty battle happening across the world right now because “Public” Health are being called out and their “pharmaceutical” predispositions are being questioned. Millions, if not more, are discovering that vaping works. “Public” health, financed by pharmaceuticals and governments (two groups that will lose out if ecigs take hold), is worried. With so many of us discovering the truth, where is the public in “Public”?

It turns out that vapers are turning away from what they are told and turning towards what they do know, in, and of, themselves. The ever more strident lies of “Public” Health become ever more distant from our experience. We learn to distrust, we learn to critique, we learn to be.

The scales fall from our eyes – political systems are revealed as ways to keep those in power, in power. Power becomes identified with mere money. All from vaping.

I used to exist, now I am.

Vaping, and the bogus-powerful critiques of vaping, have realised an entire generation of ex-smokers.

We are awoken, we exist and we so proudly are.

Liam Bryan

My Vaping Anniversary

I bought my first Vape pen almost exactly one year ago, and I really had no idea what a change to my life that would be.

It was a chance purchase, not planned or considered. The last thing on my mind was quitting smoking. I bought it for one simple reason and one reason only, a LAUGH.

A few mates had tried them and waxed lyrically about them, but I didn’t want to quit smoking so I wasn’t really interested, so it really was a fluke that I bought one at all. I was bored, and wandering around a city centre on a Saturday afternoon when my eye chanced on an advert in a shop window.

“E-cigarette kit with 2 flavours – £10”

It was cheap enough and I though the flavours looked like a giggle so I wandered in. Roughly an hour later after much testing of flavours, I wandered out with my own little vape pen and a bottle of cherry and a bottle of honeydew melon. I though I might cut down the number of cigarettes I used maybe, and I was looking forward to giving it a blast. Where that spontaneous purchase might take me I had no idea.

So a year has passed and my kit is now a bit more advanced than a CE4 and an eGo, I have stopped smoking, and I feel healthier, but those aren’t the real changes in my life.

The last week has been a roller-coaster of things I would have simply never imagined myself doing.

I started the week as I have started many weeks lately, running a social media campaign getting information out to the vaping community about the threats to vaping and how the government, the pharmaceutical industry and the tobacco industry are working in concert to take away our right to vape.

On Thursday I got up, packed the car, voted and drove to Barnsley where I stood outside a polling station for several hours taking an exit poll of the departing voters. I then spent the whole night in the company of politicians and the media, at the election count for Barnsley. Now, in the past, I haven’t been the most political person on the planet, I can’t say I have ever written to an MP, or met one until this year, in fact I can’t even say that I always voted in the past. Yet knowing that if I don’t do something then the thing I accidentally came across on a boring Saturday will be lost has spurred me to action.

On Friday I drove to London to meet, for the first time, two people I have talked to nearly every day for the last few months. There were a few comments of things like “you’re taller than I thought you were”, but we have spent so long in each others company that the fact we had never met rapidly became irrelevant.

On Saturday morning the 3 of us stood on a stage in a room filled with thousands of people (though not all were listening lol) and gave a talk. It was nerve-wracking and scary in lots of ways, but we got through it and I only forgot my words once. There was a camera crew filming the whole event, and all the way through I was thinking. “Is this me? Am I really doing this?”

I’m not someone you would expect to be doing things like this, I work in sales in a DIY store, I don’t have a degree in media or politics, half the time I’ve no idea if I am doing the right thing, the best thing or just banging my head against a brick wall. One thing I do know it that for me doing nothing isn’t an option, I will not let them destroy vaping without a fight, not just for me, but for the millions of smokers who have yet to be bored enough on a Saturday afternoon.

Abi Cottrill