The year 2015 will be remembered as the year when vaping information wars began to be fought in earnest. For almost 10 years since they burst into the scene, e-cigarettes have slipped under the radar of health agencies, allowing users and companies alike to craft their own regulations in a nicotine-spiked Wild West.
E-cigarette manufacturers have been promoting their products to both adults and children, claiming that they help smokers break their addiction while at the same time fronting hippie fancy-flavored liquids. But now it seems that health authorities have been jolted into action, perhaps by the ominous data showing that vaping has been spreading faster than bushfire.
What has alarmed the authorities most is the continuous marketing of vaping as a safe and cool habit, yet there is inconclusive evidence about the safety of the battery-powered devices like PAX 2. For the manufactures though, they’ve always gone about their business, projecting an air of certainty and an all-is-well aura.
The health authorities may have been slow to react, but they have now embarked on fighting fire with fire, ads with ads. At the end of March this year, CDC launched its first anti-smoking campaign that featured e-cigarette smokers. The California Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Department of Health followed suit, launching a series of brazen campaigns to warn residents about the brazen tactics used by manufactures to hook kids into vaping.
With little data available to prove the benefits of vaping and its effectiveness as a quitting tool, the anti-vaping ads have been going on a major offensive, using all sorts of psychological effects to hit at the manufacturers. The counter-offensive has, predictably, been very swift. Websites have been launched, this time around using bare-knuckle tactics. One pro-vaping site, VaporVanity.com posed the question: “Are The San Francisco Health Department Staff The Stupidest Human Beings On Earth?”
California seems to be the nucleus of the battle. Being the state where the vaping subculture has really sunk deep, the battle was always going to be long and dirty. When the health department launched an awareness website called “Still Blowing Smoke”, vaping advocates immediately launched an almost identical one by the name “Not Blowing Smoke.” The websites are very easy to confuse; everything is basically the same- except the message.
The Facebook and Twitter pages of the health department have been bombarded with messages from vaping advocates. It is not clear whether this is an organized attack or simply a spontaneous reaction. Whatever the case, it is getting increasingly difficult to communicate effectively. Every post made by the department is greeted by hundreds of angry messages, many of them vile and threatening. Other states have reported similar attacks.
In the absence of hard-proof evidence, the public health agencies may have to go on playing dirty in order to get the citizens to notice. Until the research on the long-term health effects is released, and it may take a few years mind you, we will just have to sit back and enjoy the show.