"Don't waste opportunities in a major crisis" - pep talk for the 2022 election year

Flavour bans, taxes and restrictions. These should be the key words to summarise the vejp year 2021. And sure, these are big topics that have in many ways characterised the news coverage in Vejpkollen over the past year. At the same time, something else stands out when I go through the articles for the year (65 articles in all). There is a theme that runs through every single article. A common thread. 

And that is: Resistance.

The organised commitment to the rights of vejpares, and the ability of smokers to become smoke-free, is growing in strength and impact.

Glowing grassroots in Europe

This spring, ETHRA published a survey where 30,000 (!) vejpers answered questions about their daily habits and opinions on everything from legislation to flavours. It's a solid document, statistics that give an overview of who 'we' as vejps are and what we need. Such a report does not write itself. It is fundamentally based on volunteer labour. The fervour comes from below. From the grassroots. Honour to Philippe Poirsson and ETHRA who compiled the report. It will be of great importance in the coming years, believe me.

The tweeting neurobiologist

Engagement has also grown on the global stage. Or rather, it has become more articulate. The organisation INNCO (International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisation) recruited a new Secretary General during the year. Charles Gardner, a neurobiologist who previously worked for the World Health Organisation and others, took over the helm in April. And it was noticeable that the tone of the debate on harm reduction was raised. By leaps and bounds.

Gardner comes from academia, has extensive experience in global health issues and is not content with opponents waving shaky research to push their thesis. This year, INNCO published two longer reports on harm reduction for smokers and focused on strongly questioning the basis of WHO, EU and US policies on e-cigarettes, snus and other less harmful nicotine products. For those who hang out on Twitter, Charles Gardner is a goldmine when it comes to the global and local debate on harm reduction. Worth an account just to follow him. You can find him here!

Cliff Douglas turned the tables

While the voices of consumers are increasingly heard, many established health scientists and researchers in the field of tobacco and nicotine have changed their approach to e-cigarettes. A clear example of this is Cliff Douglas. He was previously active in the American Cancer Society and a fierce sceptic about e-cigarettes. Cliff Douglas turned just about everything upside down when he kindly, but firmly, asked the anti-vejp lobby to calm down.

He noted that smokers, young and old, now believe that e-cigarettes are more dangerous than cigarettes and that it doesn't matter how they use their nicotine. This is thanks to repeated campaigns spreading half-truths and outright lies to reduce e-cigarette use. Cliff Douglas was one of the 100 scientists who called for the WHO to change its approach to nicotine products low-risk products (such as e-cigs, snus and nicotine pouches)

And Cliff Douglas is just one of many. Add to that a robust report, signed by 15 former presidents of the Society For Research On Nicotine and Tobacco, which appealed with scientific arguments to world leaders to balance the risks against the benefits when it comes to vejpning smoking and public health.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the debate in the future.

The giants raise their voices

In Sweden, the commitment to harm reduction has also become more evident. One consumer organisation is being formed since the government investigator proposed a flavour ban in March. The industry organisation BELC also received new life with this.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris has organised several seminars on tobacco harm reduction to raise the issue among politicians. Although both vejp entrepreneurs and tobacco companies have financial interests to protect, the debate is alive when they raise their voices. This is despite protests from all kinds of lobby groups with opposing interests.

The low-intensity lobby under the lip

At the same time, it has become clear that Parliament disagrees with both the Government's and the Public Health Agency's approach to tackling the harmful effects of smoking. When the government proposed that all tobacco and nicotine products should be fought with the same intensity as deadly cigarettes, Parliament put its foot down. This is undeniably the result of a low-intensity information effort by an industry that does not necessarily represent either vejp users or e-cigarette entrepreneurs. Snus is an important product in Sweden, and the message that snus actually discourages smoking (among both young and old) is actually well anchored in several parliamentary parties. Swedish Match hardly needs to say it anymore. 

Snus and vejpning - hand in hand

For vejpare, this is actually good news. Harm reduction is already a concept in the tobacco debate here. There are politicians who are willing to listen. E-cigarettes, like snus and nicotine pouches, are important tools for smokers who want to stop poisoning their lungs. Now it's just a matter of hammering it into a cross-party tobacco policy as well. As in the UK. Snuffing and vejping, hand in hand.

Your story - the most important thing you have

So, even though the world of vejpning is stormy and riddled with imminent threats and ban on flavoursHowever, 2021 has opened many doors.

 "Don't waste the opportunities that arise in a real crisis" said Winston Churchill. These are sobering words, and worthy of consideration for all who vejpar today. 

2022 is, after all, an election year. 

This means that politicians and opinion leaders are more open to influence. So stand up. Organise and act. Show the power of e-cigarettes. Show the power of YOU. As a vejper, you have something that no one lobby group or aggressive PR agency can take away from you. Your story, your journey and your life. 

The smoke-free vejpar

The aim is that every politician who engages with tobacco policy, or for that matter a flavour ban, has the image of a smoke-free vejper in their minds. We can give them that image. Business owners, users, and hopefully Vejpkollen, hold the keys to change.

Let's fucking do it!

Thank you for this year! Here's to a happy new 2022!

Stefan Mathisson
Journalist, lecturer, trainer, vejpare, consultant, shop assistant, nerd
Editor-in-Chief and Founder

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2 Comments on ““Förspill inte möjligheterna i en rejäl kris” – pepp inför valåret 2022

    1. Oops. It got a bit mixed up there. Corrected! Thank you for pointing it out and keep doing what you do! Interesting and important work!

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