From Doorways to Alleyways.

Cowering inside a partially constructed lean-to or huddled under leak ridden over-hangs, you’ll find the common sight against the urban landscape of Invercargill – a smoker enjoying their nicotine fix… congregating timorously next to them will be a new product of PC gone demented, The Vapers.

Yes vapers too, are now ostracised also to the back alleys to reunite with the very addiction they had spent many a year trying to dissociate from? It begs the question why the act of vaping has instilled so much negative press when recently released ministry of health reports have clearly stipulated that vaping has the contributive potential to assist in making New Zealand smoke free by 2025? http://bit.ly/2jHuoOS
Do vapers concede to the fact that Invercargill councillors made the right decision in maintaining the right for the public to breathe in their fresh southern air with no expense added by the smoker’s second-hand fumes wafting their way?

Well yes and no… It appears councillors may have reacted with too much spontaneity and without forethought when considering vaping in mind, it is, therefore, disingenuous to say that the city council want a smoke-free city while ignoring any attempts to find alternatives to smoking?? Or in this case alternative designated vaping area’s” other than an alleyway which clearly depicts their mentality of an out of sight out of mind’ attitude.

Not only in Invercargill has the smoke-free message been clearly implemented, so too are other provincial cities such as Rotorua and Whanganui, http://bit.ly/2g88sPx  where vaping is banned, not by law but by policy, in which these policies must be adhered to or otherwise told “nicely” by concerned public to move along, even though defined by law that vaping in smoke-free places is not prohibited by the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990, but can be manipulated to suit by council policymakers regardless.

It should be noted that the majority of smoke free policies have been welcomed accordingly by the vaping community as a means to not be reintroduced or influenced back into an addiction they had worked tirelessly to escape from, however merging vaping into the same basket as smoking because of a group of misinformed councilors who feel the need to negate scientifically proven data around the efficacy of vaping, or have collated spurious ramblings from the astroturfing pseudoscientists who choose to believe there is no place for vaping in society, just does not sit right with vapers at all!

If this becomes a problem when disseminating between what evidence is rot and what is robust, then this only leads to a state of more confusion around differentiating between the two of smoking vs vaping with the public… and obviously most of the council!

Another scenario to consider is our children and youth who apparently when faced with vaping, see this as a gateway and a means to renormalising smoking behaviour’s, but of course this hypothesis has been debunked that many times it’s not funny, but obviously it needs reiterating with local councilors but I hardly doubt they’d listen to a word! as the whole contentious debate on vaping has been widely fought by all in sundry by every anti-vaping organisation out there, due to the ‘kids’ needing to be protected from the iniquitous actions of a vaper!

I do however see some valid points that are raised as noted in last year’s reports by Otago University http://bit.ly/2dzHT2G  and a contrasting response from Auckland’s Massey University http://bit.ly/2zv8ybP … but there are certain issues that need further addressing once more robust data emerges, so I’ll just contend with waiting upon the veracity of reliable science and SENSIBLE restrictive legislation on dealing with that sensitive topic.

AVCA find it very frustrating when trying to validate vaping to the public arena (and some SSS cohorts), that the beneficence from transitioning from tobacco harm helps necessitate smokers towards a smoke free lifestyle, and if making that decision to change for the best to further improve one’s health, then being told to vape out of sight and out of mind sends a pretty dismal message on incentivising vaping?

PH has already made it quite clear that smoking-related diseases are a burden on the public health system as too is obesity and sugar, but no disrespect to people of the fuller figure as it is their prerogative if they choose to eat a fatty diet, just as smokers opt to indulge in a cigarette, and if a smoker wants to quit they can select between the NRT options or vape therapy, such as with an obese person who wants to diet, there are a multitude of gyms and dietary plans to follow.

But as for being a vaper, we seem to be in our own little niche with very little service input from health providers other than ourselves in providing a supportive hand, furthermore AVCA believes it’s vitally important that all DHBs, NGOs, GPs, TC, PH & SSS send a clear message to the public that there’s room for utilising vaping in the community and that everyone across the board realises that harm reduction goes far beyond the old paradigm of “quit or die” and that vaping is yet another integral solution via an Electronic Liquid Vapourisers System (ELVS)  that can be a deterrent against tobacco use and tobacco related harm and should be seen as that by public, and not perceived as a product of harm towards non-users, passerby’s and children.

… However, so to the smokers in Invercargill that have recently found liberation from the domination of combustibles… you are rewarded with the pleasure of knowing you can revisit once again the smokers in the alleyways and back streets of your great city! Which makes me wonder if it is truly about that person’s health or not? therefore smokers & vapers can expect anytime soon to be joined by the bariatric public who have been told to consume their burgers down the alleyway (food for thought), whilst alcoholics roam freely inebriated across the city inflicting pain on themselves, property and others… but it is great to see towns like Rotorua, Whanganui and Invercargill have councillors and mayors that we can rely upon to have their priorities straight.

Elsewhere in New Zealand though, Auckland City Council has proven to be quite accommodating in supporting vapers on not banning them from a necessity that keeps them from the clutches of the cancer sticks, and just as well vapers weren’t relegated to Auckland’s myriad of back alleys, as that would have proven to be a very unwise and unsafe choice by ACC.

Recently, Maori public health group Hapai Te Hauora a National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service (the only PH group presently that’s vape empathic) spearheaded a campaign against Auckland City Council in having them acknowledge that vaping was needed to be excluded from their smoke-free policy… the council then moved forward in stopping smoking in public places, but had allowed vaping to be excluded from that policy.

This would have been interesting to see the consequences of that notion, which inserting the policy would have otherwise proven to be a waste of time and resources in enforcing such a decision around a vaping bylaw in a major city such as Auckland.

But as succinctly stated by Hapai, “not to victimise and not to punish” so I really hope Hapai can persuade other local councils around New Zealand  also in adopting this mantra if they too were ever thinking of making vaping inclusive in their future smoke-free policies, http://bit.ly/2x3FcNk

 

Steve Dohmen

-AVCA co-director/cultural liaison, advocate, quit card provider & nurse- Views expressed are of my own opinion. I’m an avid believer in educating, informing, and facilitating harm minimisation via Electronic Liquid Vapourisers (ELVs) I endorse the alternative because, after 30 years of an inveterate addiction, I finally conquered the domination of smoking in 2010 through vaping!