I was 6 when SG Luthor Terry echoed the message from the Royal College of Physicians that smoking was hazardous to your health.
I was 8 when every pack of cigarettes were required to have this warning on them: “Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that smoking may be hazardous to your health”.
I was 12 when I discovered the properties of nicotine helped focus my mind and improve repeative task retention. The only way it was easily available was by smoking cigarettes.
I was 24 when I tried the first of many attempts to quit smoking. Always relapsing because nicotine’s value was always greater than the perceived harm from the vehicle used to obtain it.
I was 55 when the effects of the delivery system for nicotine began to have certain and irreversible effect. I was diagnosed with COPD and was dependent on inhalers.
At that same time, an alternative was available that did not have the long-term deleterious effects that getting nicotine through smoking did, and it worked in a way that mimiced rather substantially the ritual which provided nicotine in the way that was useful for me.
It has been 8 years since I made the switch to a product that did not exist when I was 12. A product that actually allowed some of the damage the old delivery system created to be reversed – I’m not inhaler dependent.
Throughout all this time, the message was clear – the smoke from smoking causes the damage. Every effort to provide nicotine in alternate forms had only 1 purpose, to help people quit inhaling something that was on fire to obtain nicotine.
Over the last 8 years I’ve been witness to the absolute hypocrisy of various public health entities towards the invention of now numerous satisfying alternatives to conventional nicotine delivery. The constant marginalization of those who smoke, turning them not only into self-destructive people – but the prejudice against them, in social gatherings, workplaces, and even their own homes or cars.
Today, those who use nicotine are discriminated against with absolute impunity – fired from jobs, evicted from housing, barred for participation in society. All because a few, well funded, organizations have lost sight of the real goal, that reducing the early death and disease caused by smoking is the number one public health mission to reduce non-communicable disease. Instead, more than 2/3 of the budget of agencies whose mission is to protect the public from disease has been spent in propaganda to marginalize those who smoke, while their origninal mission – to protect people from communicable diseases, has languished into an ineffective state.
On this World Vaping Day it should become the mission of every researcher, every policy maker, to #RethinkTheProblem and right the course of these agencies to fulfill their original mission, to focus on the real effort needed to reduce the disease cost of communicable disease while promoting those means that have the same effect for those who smoke.
It is time, not for public display by those who have found relief and healing through alternative nicotine sources who are standing up today but for the integrity of science to reject the moralist hegemony of organizations who seek to further marginalize those who smoke.
It is time to call to task those whose source of funding is tied inexorably to smoking via taxes and civil settlements be held accountable for their opposition to the availability of alternatives that so profoundly reduce the early onset of disease and death.
It is time for them to explain, clearly, why they no longer hold the mission of public health as their guidestar – instead seeking the impossible goal of eliminating the use of nicotine from the human experience by any means regardless of the consequences.
When this once again becomes the mission of public health science, nicotine will be available for those who desire it’s effects in forms that are not only effective but enjoyable with ever decreasing early disease and death.
This is why those who smoke, ostracized by public health, invented refined smokeless tobacco, vapoized nicotine, and other alternatives. They held to the mission, to reduce the harm while maximizing the enjoyment of nicotine. They know that #Prohibition fails, and that #HarmReduction saves lives.
It is time for public health science to catch up to what those who smoke held to steadfastly – there are innovations that are profoundly safer, effective, and enjoyable that may obsolete, but not entirely eliminate smoking, and that will reduce the harm for those who choose to.