April 2016



By Dave Cross

I like choice.

A frost is lying on the ground now, it’s the nearest thing we’ve come to a semblance of winter this year. One of our tabloid newspapers loves to tell us (on an annual basis) that we are set to become bit part characters in snowstorms of Hollywood proportions – but it never happens.

The puppy breaks thin ice covering the puddles on the airfield. The dogs love coming back to this walk due to the proliferation of foxes and muntjac leaving a myriad of scent trails. Me? It sits on top of one of the rolling hills straddling the border between Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. It means I get to look down on traffic on its way from somewhere less important than to where it’s all heading. While the Springers race each other into another bunch of trees, I let loose curls of vape into the cold air and feel small in the landscape.

If one of the drivers were to look up they might spot the dark stretch of trees breaking the space between the risen ground and blanket of grey permanently hanging over us. At 70 mph, they’d not pick out the little fat man clutching his Hellsir box, a spiral of strawberry-flavored cloud bearing no import. There’s nothing like feelings of insignificance to give you a sense of perspective.

The commuters and delivery personnel won’t see the Stars & Stripes rippling over the abandoned carpetbaggers home. They won’t grasp the historical significance that their journey pales in comparison with the ones made by the B-24 Liberators during World War II. The traffic need not worry, the dogs don’t get it either.

Climbing back into the car we could, if we were stupid enough, opt to join the madness on the A14 instead of venturing home for tea and cake. I could mesh with a world where I would be visible to the other road users, a world where I could be just another target for their frustrations and inadequacies and rage; a place where we can’t make out the decaying Thor missile silos and crumbling concrete runways above us. I could engage in meaningless confrontation but I’ll be found drinking a cup of Darjeeling and pounding down something covered in fondant icing.

Again, I like choice.

The mug steams as it sits adjacent to a box packed with various E-Liquids, bottles shipped over the Atlantic and following the route to USAAF Station 179. From the Cold War to the war on vaping — both are now a part of history. There is still one battle being fought in the European court, but its outcome is inevitable: the Tobacco Products Directive and Article 20 will be implemented as written. It’s as certain as our puppy not knowing if it wants to be inside looking out or outside scratching to come in.

It’s something the British online community is struggling to come to terms with and it’s like watching children attempting to pair up in kindergarten for group work.

Most of us look back at our early years of education with fondness, but truth be told, it’s a visceral environment. Friendship groups spurn individuals just for having the wrong music act on a backpack – we don’t tolerate dissent, we look for subservient adherence to a hive mind.

Just look at poor old Rip Trippers: while many believe his review videos are only made in order to be used during the interrogation and torture of suspected terrorists, he’s still amassed over half a million subscribers on YouTube. At the time of writing, there is no hard evidence that these subscribers are all non-English speaking, but the comment sections would give this impression.

Mr. “The Trippers” mentioned that he may have experienced some intolerance to the propylene glycol in E-Liquid. British vape Facebook groups and online forums hit meltdown within hours of him uploading the audiovisual feast. The vilification and abuse seemed a touch excessive considering the wonderful thing about the Internet is that you can turn it off. It seems that rather than opting for the peace and tranquility of an online dog walk, we rush down the hillside to stand at the roadside of a highway to conflict.

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We have a binary attitude to the use of electronic cigarettes: You have to say nothing but positive things about vaping or you stand with those trying to ban it. You are either Doctor Konstantinos Farsalinos or you are Professor Stanton Glantz, there is no tolerance in-between.

But I like choice.

The Totally Wicked court case, challenging Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), sought to block the imposition of 10ml bottles, 2ml atomizers and a maximum 20mg for nicotine strength. The company ran, and still does, a petition to collect signatures of people who supported their action – but woe betide you if you wondered aloud about the motivation behind the compilation of tens of thousands of vapers’ names and addresses. To have questioned someone’s driving ability or question the appearance of his or her mother would have received a warmer reception.

So, some wave the white flag and consider how they will subvert the incoming legislation while others hoist their colors high to continue a futile fight. But most will roll with the punches. I’ll be walking down the runway in twelve months time, behaving like a child and breaking puddle ice crusts. The memory of any vape drama will pale against a backdrop of a real conflict.

What gets often overlooked is that the online communities of British vapers constitute nothing more than a tiny percentage of the 2.8-Million ecig users on the island. The frenetic angst of social media activity stands in contrast with an ambivalent, yet happy majority. My choice is not to let single issues color my life. Most users of vaping products haven’t the first notion who or what a TPD or a Rip Trippers is – a definition of happiness to rival that of taking the dogs for a walk.