So imagine this episode through a wormhole into a universe far into the future and a meeting of the Inter-Galactic Health Organisation being addressed by the Conference Chair Madame Chaargg from the planet Thaarrgg; “We thought you might appreciate some light relief from the serious business of the day, not least the galactic pandemic of brussel sprout-related fever, we would delve into the Federation Drug Archive (FDA) to see what quaint views our ancestors held about public health and in particular the dangers of vaping with a device called JUUL, one of several devices which of course we now know had a hugely beneficial health impact on smoking-related diseases on that little blue dot we sometimes see known as Earth. So here goes:

“Vaping causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nicotine is a carcinogen. Juul delivers carcinogens to users. Juul is designed to transition users to cigarette smoking. Juul is defectively designed on the basis that it very effectively delivers nicotine. Juul aggravates nicotine addiction in cigarette smokers.”

(Gales of laughter from the audience)

“Wait there is more. Governments decided to make it harder to get hold of vaping products than the far more dangerous cigarettes. One government decided to ban sales in most of the outlets where underage vapers don’t obtain these devices anyway (apparently they were obsessed about teenage vapers) with the risk that the adult smokers who really needed to switch would just be put off and stick with the cigarettes that remained on sale everywhere even in those stores that swept vaping devices off their shelves. Oh, and they banned all the flavours of e-liquid except those flavours most like cigarettes”.

(Audience now hysterical including Ambassador Spong from the Outer Neutron Galaxy who dies because the paramedics were only able to resuscitate in time one of his ten hearts).

A science fiction scenario, yes, but all those allegations against JUUL are central to a current court case in Florida claiming that JUUL and Altria are in cahoots to get kids hooked on nicotine no doubt with the perceived outcome of more kids smoking. Can’t quite figure why JUUL would want kids smoking, but I’m sure the eminent firm of Messrs Sue, Grabbit & Run will wangle a way.

A science fiction scenario, yes, but overall no more scientifically fictitious than the gibberish spouted by the anti-vaping lobby trying to convince governments about the alleged ‘dangers’ of safer nicotine products in the face of the balance of population level independent evidence. On this side of the wormhole, we are still faced with the black hole of fake news which sucks in all the evidence-based science and proportionate and pragmatic legal responses into its maw, allowing no light of ideologically-free public health measures to escape. Instead we have the dark matter of at least 85% myth and misinformation threatening the lives of millions of smokers.

The WHO recently announced that global outbreaks of measles have soared recently largely due to the propaganda pumped out by the anti-vax movement. This has an eerie read across to the anti-vape movement. Vaccination is the tried and tested intervention to prevent the spread of infectious disease. But on the basis of highly discredited evidence, there is an army of parents who believe that the measles vaccine causes autism. So they don’t vaccinate their kids who may well go on to contract measles and pass the disease onto other kids who have yet to be vaccinated or have only had their first dose of MMR. ‘I have a right not to vaccinate my child’ they say. Maybe, but you don’t have the right to pass on measles to somebody else’s kid because of your dangerous views.

Anti-vapers are doing their level best to legislate safer nicotine products out of existence but promoting so much discredited evidence about the dangers of these products that the kids who might otherwise have been using nicotine relatively safely may well turn round, should all the hysteria bear fruit, and say ‘OK. I’ll just smoke then seeing as you haven’t banned cigarettes and I can get them in any store’. So these anti-vapers who keep trumpeting ‘think about the children’ are potentially setting up a situation where other peoples’ children could be at risk from the second hand smoke courtesy of their former- vaping mates who have turned to cigarettes having been denied access to the healthier option. The word ‘epidemic’ is used in relation to the increase in American teenage vaping with no detailed published evidence to back it up. But supposing it is an epidemic and the government is successful in closing off all routes to vaping for young people. What do they think will happen?

And as a harbinger of crack downs on access to legitimate vaping devices, US customs seized an international package from China containing over 1000 counterfeit JUUL pods, three chargers and a JUUL device. With no sense of irony, a Customs official said that counterfeits pose “potential health and safety threats” to consumers – as do legislative anti-vaping moves at a national and federal level which could lead to consumers turning to counterfeits exposing them to unknown and potentially hazardous chemicals and dangerous devices bereft of any quality standards. 

Before I go, just a reminder that on this small blue dot of ours, some clear, blue light does shine to illuminate the sense buried in the nonsense of the public health controversy over tobacco harm reduction. It’s called the Global Forum on Nicotine which this year does exactly what it says on the tin and considers the whole issue of nicotine. Be there. You know it makes sense.