Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Let's Talk About Cloud-Chasing

While in Scotland a few weeks ago for the Glasgow School of Vape event, I met up with Dave Dorn, canny lad from the north east who formerly fronted the vaping online show, Vapour Trails TV. I mentioned that I had an article in my head that he wouldn't like - what with him being an avowed fan of cloud-chasing and something of a celebrity amongst those who like to use high-powered equipment (in fact, as we spoke he was approached by quite a few Scots clutching very specialist devices) about the practical problems that big clouds could present.

It was an interesting discussion so I asked if he'd like to write a counterpoint, which I'm pleased to say he agreed to. So, following a few beers in the Drury Street Bar & Kitchen and other fine hostelries in Scotland's second city, I promised to send him this, my thoughts sub-ohming in public. And below is Dave's write-up giving the opposing view.

Stop The Cloud-Chasing Already

On Wednesday 17th January, BBC Radio 5 Live's (very) early morning show, Wake Up To Money, took an unusual turn because BAT's scientific director David O'Reilly was invited to take part. You can hear his very well-argued views on the ever-evolving nicotine market from 33:45 mins in here.

However, earlier in the show, host Mickey Clark described his experience of being "vaped" in Canterbury recently.

Now, he's a decent fella, is Mickey, and not predisposed to anger that I've ever noticed. However, this "unpleasant experience" has probably turned him negative towards vaping.

He won't be alone, either. If you've ever wondered, as I have, why some people seem to be absolutely outraged about vaping - it was described as "breathing your exhaled lung juice" by someone on Twitter recently - I think Clark's observation might have a lot to do with it.

You see, the view I have of vaping is dictated by what I see within the vapers I interact with most, my employees. And I don't know a single one of them who vapes to blow huge clouds. Honestly, I really don't. They all use small second generation 'vape pen' devices or even proprietary cigalikes that they bought from a supermarket, the vapour from which varies from mediocre to negligible.

So where do people get this idea that vaping is selfish - as a letter published in Norfolk at the weekend described it - and solely about massive clouds? Well, it could be the media because they do like to get footage that is spectacular. I remember when the BBC turned up in Stony Stratford for our protest against Herr Bartlett in 2011, the reporter's first request on arrival was about organising a mass smoke cloud from those there. I tried putting her off by acting continually busy but she kept coming back asking again and again. In the end she realised I wasn't going to organise it so went off and did it herself.

The same is true today, as every article on TV about e-cigs homes in on some vape bar or other and encourages the clientele to blow clouds everywhere. The same is also true about the vast majority of news articles. I mean, how many times have you seen images like this even in articles which speak of the benefits of vaping?

Sorry to break it you, cloud-chasers, but that really isn't a good look and you're not helping the cause by doing that in public. As we see from Mickey Clark's observation, every time some ignorant vaper does that where it's not appropriate, he/she is turning a number of people off the concept entirely.

And if you think this is illiberal nonsense, you'd be wrong. I remember attending the launch of the IEA's Lifestyle Economics Unit in Leicester Square a few years ago and a certain pro-choice advocate told me he was 100% behind vaping but "I'm not so sure about those devices that give off huge clouds". Likewise a debate Chris Snowdon had arranged in May 2016 was ruined by some wacko using a dripper and shrouding the room in so much fog that even the IEA attendees - probably some of the most tolerant and liberal individuals in the country - were offended enough to open the windows on what wasn't a particularly warm evening. They were there to understand e-cigs but many would have left with the impression that they're just downright anti-social.

The Adam Smith Institute also recently imposed an office ban in the mistaken belief that vaping was all about big clouds. It has since been rescinded and I understand "considerate vaping welcome" signs are being used instead, but if cloud-chasing scares libertarian types, what chance have we got elsewhere?

I've seen it personally at open air events too, including a cricket match once with a sparse crowd where just one ignorant clown managed to attract disgusted looks from about a dozen other people behind him as his vapour wafted right through them, and they were at least four or five rows away! The ground in question now bans vaping throughout whereas it didn't before.

There are, sadly, very few venues these days that understand the subject astutely enough to produce sensible policies like this one at a friend's pub which is local to me. Instead, the kneejerk reaction - and the easiest option - is to not think about it and just ban all vaping.

And that's without even mentioning how it is such a gift to opponents who like to pretend big clouds are the only products of vaping and use it to give themselves an easy win.

It wouldn't even be so bad if that kind of behaviour was representative of vapers in general, but it's not. The hobbyists who revel in 200 watt devices and max VG stuff are not at all representative, because you'd not notice the vast majority of vapers using their equipment if they were sitting next to you. However, this tiny subset has an incredibly disproportionate effect on how the public views the entire subject, and it's a wholly damaging one. It's a multiplier, every cloud turns a few more people off vaping and leads, inevitably, to bans being inflicted on vapers who are considerate and would prefer not to be noticed. This small exchange under a positive Telegraph article recently illustrates the problem perfectly and is by no means unusual.

It's an etiquette thing. Clouds of vapour might not be harmful (they aren't) but if the general public has been conned into thinking a few wisps of tobacco smoke is, what do they make about something that is 2 or 3 times more visible? Well I guess 2 or 3 times more harmful.

It's all about perception, and I'm sorry but although blowing clouds is fun (I have sub ohm devices and recently acquired a nifty dripper at a knock-down price) it belongs at home or a specialist vaping venue, it's just not practical to claim that it's acceptable everywhere.

For the benefit of vaping in general, just stop it already.

Do Not Give In To Them

By Dave Dorn, NNA trustee and former VTTV presenter

So, this whole “Considerate Vaping” thing and “Cloud Chasers get us all a bad name”. To some degree, I get it.

Yes, you saw that, I said it, but, and this is the thing, the folks that Dick refers to would have nothing whatever to say about the clouds they’re in were they to be at a recording of Pointless, Strictly Come Dancing or any other TV show (Stage show, theatre show) where the producers want you to see the pretty light beams.

Why? I have no idea (Not true, I do, but let’s be patient, shall we?) They are all sat in a great cloud - sometimes quite dense - of exactly the same stuff. It’s all made with PG and VG, the ratios of which, together with distilled water, are varied to vary the density of the cloud. Sound familiar? I wonder why!

Now, not so very long ago, I was sat in the very same venue as Dick, and it was like being in a discotheque (That’s the old fashioned term for “Club”, I believe the modern term is) with shedloads of fog being pumped out so the light beams were visible while people dance to the music. Except there were no pretty lights. Nobody actually gave a toss. Folks were happy and enjoying their time.

My belief is that, no matter how little vapour you give out, some prodnose will have a whinge.

An example, if you’ll allow.

Like Dick, I was at an event in foreign climes, at which the organisers had requested a vape-free policy in the largest of the rooms - the one used for plenaries. In the audience, there was a self-proclaimed supporter of vaping (as a means of quitting smoking, yada yada yada), whose eagle eyes spotted someone - it may have been me, it may not - have a sly stealth vape, as one inevitably does, because one can. Said personage went batshit crazy with the organisers, whinging and bleating about how vapers cannot be trusted to abide by the rules and “something must be done!”.

Now, I’m a biker. I ride motorcycles. I don’t normally do the leather waistcoat, back patch and tattoos thing, but I do frequent so-called “Biker Pubs”. And I’ve noticed that “civilians” (non-bikers) rarely frequent those places. Again, I don’t know why (this time I actually don’t - I just assume we’re scary looking nasty people on noisy smelly things and we’ll kill you if you say “Hello”, or something).

Those same folks probably also hate the idea that they can see what I’ve breathed out, by way of my vapour, in other places. They’re seeing confirmation that the air they’re about to breathe has already been in my lungs. They already knew this (it’s not exactly rocket science) but they ignore the fact, because it’s a bit yucky. They don’t mind the same dense haze in a TV studio or disco, because, they think, it hasn’t already been through a thousand other folks’s lungs. Of course, it has - but they don’t see visual confirmation of that.

The thing is, were you to vape in such a place, no matter how slight the “cloud” was, the very same prodnoses would whinge. They just would. It’s what they do.

So, I think we have to educate people. I do NOT think we should give in to them, else they’ll just keep on keeping on whinging at every opportunity.

I mean, no, don’t go “vaping” folks - covering them in a targeted cloud - cos that is just rude, but do find venues that aren’t going to be complete penises about it, and are truly vape friendly, because they understand that the vapour is as close to harmless as you’ll get.

Set up vape meets in venues, get them some revenue generated, get them wanting you back regularly, and they will, in time, become the vaping equivalent of biker bars. Somewhere the prodnoses won’t feel welcome. My kinda place.

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