Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tobacco Control Journal Makes Fun of Vapers, Calling them Idiots

A cartoon appearing in this month's issue of Tobacco Control makes fun of vapers, calling them "idiots." The cartoon features a man vaping and a woman next to him. The man says: "With vaping, I get all the nicotine, none of the smoke and it makes me look cool." The woman responds: "You look like an idiot smoking a laser pointer."

The Rest of the Story

Why is Tobacco Control making fun of vapers and calling them idiots?

Imagine that the journal ran a similar cartoon about nicotine patch users. In it, the man says: With NRT, I get all the nicotine and none of the smoke." And the woman responds: "You look like an idiot putting a cream patch on your chest."

I think most readers could appreciate that a cartoon which makes fun of smokers who are using a nicotine patch to try to quit smoking, improve their health, and save their lives so that they are around longer to enjoy life and time with their families would be quite insensitive and inappropriate, especially coming from a journal that is supposed to be promoting health.

But there is no qualitative difference between such an NRT cartoon and the e-cigarette cartoon that is featured in the July issue of Tobacco Control. Both are making out smokers who are using various forms of nicotine to try to quit as looking like (and being) idiots.

Sadly, this is an accurate reflection of how so many tobacco control groups and advocates see vapers. While the nicotine patch is an acceptable way to quit smoking, the e-cigarette is not. Why? For one reason: it looks like smoking. And smoking is idiotic. And people who smoke are therefore idiots. Apparently, smokers who sincerely try to quit smoking using e-cigarettes are even worse idiots because they aren't even really smoking.

While that logic might sound stupid, it is precisely the thinking that characterizes the bulk of the "anti-smoking" movement today. That Tobacco Control saw fit to publish this cartoon demonstrates that they apparently see things in this way.

Now I recognize that a journal is not necessarily promoting the opinions expressed in a work that it publishes. For example, if a journal publishes an article which presents data suggesting that smoking in cars should be banned, the journal is not necessarily taking that position and promoting it. The journal is simply publishing an article that offers such a view. However, this is different because it is not a research article. The journal's purpose is not to provide cartoons. It made a deliberate choice to include this cartoon.

I also recognize that humor should be given a little more leeway than a scholarly piece. We all need to have a sense of humor in our work. However, dying from smoking is not a laughing matter. Neither is being addicted to cigarette smoking and being unable to quit. Nor is being fearful of dying prematurely because of an addiction that you cannot easily overcome. When smokers try to quit by switching to e-cigarettes, it is a very serious matter. It's about their health and their lives. I don't find it something to joke about. Nor do I think it is appropriate to call those people idiots because they are forced to go to such extremes to try to break the smoking addiction.

Should we call heroin addicts who try to overcome their addiction by switching to methadone idiots because they have to pop opiate pills everyday?

On the contrary, these are people who should be praised for taking control of their health and their lives and making a wise decision to switch from the most toxic form of nicotine to a much safer alternative form of nicotine. Vapers should be congratulated, not made fun of and called idiots. Does the journal prefer that these people continue smoking so as not to make fools of themselves?

It continues to baffle me why the tobacco control movement views vaping and vapers with such venomous disdain. If we had the same disdain for smokers who slop on patches or use nicotine inhalers or chewing gum, we would be writing ourselves out of the public health field. I'm afraid that's exactly what we're doing with our attitude about e-cigarettes and the people who are using these devices to try to improve their health and save their lives.

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