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May 29, 2020

All Hands on Deck: Tomorrow is World Vape Day!

Saturday, May 30 is World Vape Day. It’s a day of recognition for the technology that has helped millions of people stay off combustible tobacco, and a celebration of the people who fight for smokers to have access to these livesaving products. It’s also intended to raise awareness about the relative safety of vaping, and convince smokers to try tobacco harm reduction (THR) with a vape.

World Vape Day happens a day before the World Health Organization’s World No Tobacco Day, the international tobacco control event on May 31 that used to be focused on educating the public about the harms of smoking, but has become a festival of opposition to the low-risk nicotine products like vapes that challenge the dominance of cigarettes.

Nicotine consumers around the world deserve low-risk alternatives to smoking, but in dozens of countries those options are denied to them by severe restrictions or outright bans. Just this week, The Union—one of many powerful international non-profit organizations involved in tobacco control—announced it is advocating for “the prohibition of the sale of e-cigarettes…in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which are home to more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers.”

The WHO, The Union, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and other governmental and private organizations claim nicotine prohibition and abstinence are the only solutions to the death and disease caused by smoking. But they also depend on smoking and Big Tobacco to survive. Without an opponent they can claim is an indomitable Goliath, they would have no reason to exist. In reality, they represent the real powers—tax-hungry governments and the collective weight of the public health establishment—and are backed by billions in donations from healthcare and pharmaceutical corporations and neo-puritan philanthropists like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Powerful organizations that want to deny low-risk nicotine products to the world’s smokers—aided by sadly incurious politicians and news media—are exactly what consumer nicotine advocates deal with on a daily basis. World Vape Day events and the website are being managed by the member groups of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations (INNCO) and a number of other consumer groups.

More than 40 consumer organizations from around the world are participating, and vapers will be speaking out in dozens of languages from every continent. You don’t have to be part of an organized group to get involved though. The day will provide an outlet for ordinary vaping consumers everywhere to push back against the denial of their human right to harm reduction.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be no protests or public gatherings for World Vape Day. While there will be some press conferences, and streaming events happening on Facebook and YouTube pages, the real action will happen on Twitter, where vapers and vaping advocates already have a strong presence.

Twitter is the platform known best for political advocacy, and it will be the primary focus, but if you’re more comfortable with Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, you can help light up those apps with pro-vaping wisdom. For that matter, you could write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. What matters is that vapers in every country where vaping exists get involved and made themselves heard.

A major goal is to make the hashtag #WorldVapeDay trend worldwide on Twitter. To that end, the World Vape Day website has an excellent page of advice for vapers on Twitter (including how to start a Twitter account). It features a number of preloaded tweets, advice on how to tweet (and retweet) for maximum impact, and some consumer advocacy groups to follow on Twitter. (Be sure to follow the World Vape Day account too!)

If you haven’t followed (and joined) your country’s consumer groups, this is the perfect time to get acquainted. World Vape Day is an ideal opportunity for socially isolated vapers to meet up and help each other connect with the people and organizations that exist to represent them. If you know vapers that aren’t engaged with the community, encourage them to get involved and to join their consumer group. We need everyone taking part to fully activate the THR movement.

Since we’re hoping to be noticed by the world on Saturday, ranting at well-known vaping enemies—especially using profanity—should probably be avoided. The same goes for engaging in partisan politics or insulting opponents. We’re trying to attract new followers, provoke interest in our cause, and convince skeptics to engage in ways that lead to greater understanding—not to frighten people away from us by being shouty or by mobbing them.

At the same time, since World Vape Day exists partly as a counterpoint to World No Tobacco Day, using our opponents’ own hashtags in our vape-positive messages can be a powerful way to garner attention. Indeed, the intention is for the World Vape Day to spill over into Sunday’s World No Tobacco Day, with vapers trying to hijack the official WHO hashtags. Imagine if the highest-ranking tweets on Sunday using the official WNTD hashtags #TobaccoExposed and #WNTD2020 are messages promoting vaping!

One final note on World No Tobacco Day: the WHO’s social media materials include a set of photographs of very young children smoking and vaping. Use caution retweeting those images. Judiciously drawing attention to the creepy shock tactic of showing seven-year-olds smoking is one thing, but sharing them over and over gives them more authority and attention than they deserve. If you have time, try to share vaping opponents’ tweets as screencaps, rather than giving them the added algorithmic benefit of a retweet.

If we make the #WorldVapeDay hashtag trend, trolls will show up to laugh at us and try to provoke vapers—in short, to do troll things. Ignore them. Stay positive and tell your story, or share other vapers’ tweets. Retweeting popular tweets that use the #WorldVapeDay and #SayYesToTHR hashtags will increase their reach and influence. Responding to trolls only increases the troll’s authority on Twitter.

This is a moment for vapers to be noticed, to get our message out, to speak truth to power, and to find new allies and friends. World Vape Day has serious purposes: to show that vapers will not be discouraged or silenced by the wealthy drug warriors who masquerade as agents of public health, to attract smokers to a safer way of using nicotine, and to make the public aware of why we vape and why they should support our right to do it. But it’s going to be a lot of fun too.

Feature photo by Vappix

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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