Last week Vaping Today published an interview with WVA’s Director, Michael Landl. Read below about what vapers can do to make sure their voices are heard, and what are some of the global challenges vaping faces at the moment. Read the interview in Spanish here.
In such a heterogeneous world scenario and with countries in different complexities in relation to vaping, what motivated the creation of WVA and how does it intend to act globally? Tell us how it came about.
The World Vapers’ Alliance was launched in May 2020. We amplify the voice of passionate vapers around the world and empower them to make a difference for their communities. The WVA was built out of a desire for vapers to come together and the alliance has already 17 partner organisations from Chile to Canada to Poland and Kenya to Australia and everywhere in between. Our main goals are to ensure our voices are heard, to combat misinformation and to make sure that regulations are drafted with vapers’ interests at heart. To achieve this, we support our partners with our political and media networks, providing materials and resources to help campaigns around the world and sharing research, information and best practice around the world to enable global vaping activism.
What exactly is the position and role of the consumer in the consumer society of the beginning of the 21st century?
The power in the hands of consumers is often underestimated. Our day to day spending decisions have a great influence on the shape of our market economies. But in the 21st century, we as consumers also have the opportunity to raise our voices in different ways. Think about how social media made the establishment of new communities across countries possible. This is also a great advantage for the vaping community, because today we can make our voices heard in society and politics – and that is one of the main goals of the World Vapers’ Alliance.
How do you see the current scenario of two major markets: the USA from PMTA and Europe from TPD2?
That the United States of all countries cracks down on vaping in such a harsh way, is very unfortunate. It seems to turn from the land of the free to the land of overregulation and paternalism. I still cannot believe that lawmakers are risking a public health crisis and putting thousands of people out of business. Less choice and access to vaping products will turn vapers back to smoking, which is contrary to all public health goals.
In Europe the EU will launch the “EU Beating Cancer Plan ” towards the end of this year, outlining a European strategy to tackle cancer. This is a fantastic opportunity to introduce vaping as an effective measure to help millions of smokers quit and reduce one of the leading causes of cancer in Europe: smoking. Therefore, we started our BACK VAPING. BEAT CANCER campaign last week to try to put pressure from the community on lawmakers. If the EU includes the concept of harm reduction including vaping, in the plan it would be a great precedent for any revision of the Tobacco Products Directive.
Why, in your opinion, in several countries, especially in Latin America, is the Law so inert in relation to the rights of nicotine consumers?
The main problem is the wave of misinformation in society in general, but in politics particularly and this is in all countries very similar. That is why all vapers around the world should combat this misinformation wherever they can. Therefore we are delighted to see initiatives like the campaign for the inclusion of the concept of harm reduction in the fight against smoking, as well as the recognition and enforceability of the adult consumer rights of the vapers in Iberoamerica. Organizations like Asovape and ARDT are doing a great job and we try to support as much as possible.
Consumer relations and economic market activities must be regulated by the State. When he is silent, does not dialogue or when he formally intervenes only bureaucratically with the ban, how to defend consumers from the inevitable and growing illicit market that this State action generates?
This is related to what I said earlier. While for example proposed flavour bans are most certainly well-intentioned, they have disastrous outcomes, because they will create black markets and drive vapers back to smoking. As the World Vapers’ Alliance we try to inform regulators about the bad consequences of such laws in as many parliaments as possible around the world. For example we published a research paper on this, called “Why Flavours matter”. Legislation on vaping must take the facts of smoking cessation, and harm reduction with the help of vaping, into account and we urge legislators everywhere against the widespread implementation of such adverse regulations. Good intentions in themselves are not enough but good outcomes are. But to be successful, we need the support of all vapers. As I said earlier, consumers have great power today, so we need to stand up against bad laws like this, raise our voices and defend ourselves.
And how to combat prohibitionism, antagonistic lobbying and disinformation?
With a lot of patience (laughs). We need to combat the misinformation with clear and simple language to get the facts straight. That is why Vaping Today is such a great project. We need more initiatives like this. Also, vapers need to come together and learn from each other. All these amazing vaping consumer groups in Latin America are a prime example of what good partnership and collaboration across borders can do. You have so many great and active groups here and that makes me very positive for the future of vaping in the region.
Do you believe that self-regulation of the illegal market is possible through the organization and awareness of consumers?
We all know that illegal markets are very dangerous and we want people to stay away from them. Unfortunately, many of the regulations do have the opposite effect and drive people towards them. Prohibition never worked in history and always created black markets. So obviously we need clear and simple rules on who can use vaping products and how they should be manufactured. Every vaper will agree with this, but what we don’t need are paternalistic and ill informed regulations for adults.
Who are the enemies of harm reduction products, such as vaping?
I don’t like to think in terms like that. I think what we see is a coalition between two very different groups. In economics this concept is called “bootleggers and baptists”. The bootleggers are profiting from harsh vaping regulations or outright bans and the baptists morally don’t want to see vaping. The former, the bootleggers, are a wide range of people: government health agencies, health NGOs, competitors…they see smoking rates falling at a pace never seen before and are afraid to lose their reason for existence – the fight against smoking. Bootleggers are afraid that vaping will do what they weren’t able to.
The latter, the baptists, are those who can only accept a “zero tolerance approach” – which is not working. Instead of putting practical solutions center stage they follow their idealized goals no matter what.
What possible strategies to combat them?
Harm reduction has proven to be effective and is accepted in many fields. Vaping is 95% less harmful compared to smoking and in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada or New Zealand the concept of harm reduction is therefore already accepted in the fight against smoking. So there is light at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, we all need to raise our voices, combat misinformation wherever we can and seek the dialogue with decision makers on all levels to achieve the same in other countries. One way of doing this, is to become a member of the World Vapers’s Alliance. So let’s keep fighting for our rights to vape!