Road couple and YouTuber Karl-Åke Johansson wants to help smokers quit smoking. He is now launching a short film to reach politicians, authorities and journalists. And it's all about e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes, or vejpning, are heavily regulated in Sweden, with an 18-year limit, limited nicotine levels, controls on which products can be placed on the market and a tax on nicotine liquids. The law also prohibits companies selling electronic cigarettes from advertising.
"We have a public health authority that refuses to recognise what an incredible benefit e-cigarettes could be for public health" says Karl-Åke JohanssonIT technician, committed e-cigarette user and former heavy smoker.
E-cigs less harmful than cigarettes
Today, over 100 000 Swedes use e-cigarettes. The majority of them are current or former smokers. But there should be more of them, says Karl-Åke Johansson. Research shows that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Smokers who can switch to e-cigs improve their health, even if they still use nicotine. But it's not just about the smokers, says Karl-Åke Johansson.
"Smoking costs the healthcare system around SEK 70 billion per year. With an extra SEK 70 billion, we would have no healthcare queues left. Getting smokers to switch to e-cigarettes could free up a lot of this money for other purposes. If only politicians would wake up and realise the truth" says Karl-Åke Johansson.
"Stop smoking completely or die"
But it is difficult to get the message across, he says. The Swedish Public Health Agency has a cautious, negative attitude towards e-cigarettes and other products that can reduce the harm of tobacco smoking. And politicians legislate accordingly.
"We are a small country and have a public health authority that unreasonably refuses to recognise the incredible public health benefits of e-cigarettes. Their attitude to smoking is "quit completely or die". Harm reduction is an abomination to them. This is the picture of reality that is being drummed out and of course it also affects the interest in e-cigarettes among smokers." Says Karl-Åke Johansson.
Better than drugs according to research
The attitude of the authorities towards vejpning is one of the major reasons why relatively few smokers try vejpning to quit smoking in Sweden, says Karl-Åke Johansson. According to a recent report by Cochrane library, which summarises the state of research on healthcare treatments, e-cigarettes double the chances of quitting smoking compared to other nicotine medicines.
"Companies must not say anything"
Mr Johansson is now calling for more involvement in the issue, particularly from politicians and health professionals.
"We need a political change of attitude. Today, the number of users is only growing through word of mouth. The advertising ban means that companies selling e-cigarettes can't even talk about the benefits smokers get from quitting, let alone promote it," he said.
No stakeholder organisation
At the same time, users need to organise themselves, says Karl-Åke Johansson. This is something that vejpers in many countries have done. In Denmark Danish vejp Association, Dadafo, over 3000 members.
"We definitely lack an interest organisation that speaks for us. The Swedish vejp companies have an organisation, but the large number of users have no voice" says Karl-Åke Johansson.
"Film is a tool"
He now hopes that the film will at least attract some attention. If only among smokers.
"The film will be a tool on many levels. It will speak to smokers who are faced with the choice to try e-cigarettes. It can be sent to the media to change their attitude. But we also hope to reach politicians and give them a different picture of smoking and e-cigs." says Karl-Åke Johansson.
How do you distribute the film?
"Through social media. Facebook is a powerful medium. It is also on YouTube channels Elite 100. By spreading it in the vejp groups, and encouraging sharing, it can reach surprisingly well."
Have you received any reactions?
"I have received many reactions. The nicest one was probably: "I sat and cried, while hugging my vejp.""
What prompted you to do 'Save Lives'?
"The piece of music. That was really what started it all. Damian Morter, who wrote the music and lyrics for the song "Hard to breathe" is one of our oldest e-cig reviewers on YouTube. I heard him sing the song a few years ago and have been thinking about what to do with it ever since. The message is so perfect. With my YouTube channel, my knowledge of video and mixing has grown, and that's when I got the idea. I was so happy when Damian offered me to use his music for free. I actually have an English version of the film in the works too.