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Vapers Demolish Anti-vaping Lies with Hashtag Hijack

About the author
Oliver Kershaw

Oliver Kershaw

Founder of and co-founder of

A huge social media backlash has erupted in the wake of an anti-ecigarette campaign by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The #curbit campaign, which equates the risks of smoking with vaping, consists of billboard posters around SF bay area with a strong focus on the BART and MUNI public transport systems, and social media postings cautioning against the use of vapor products.

Within 24 hours of launch #curbit hashtag was comprehensively hijacked on Twitter, with graphical parodies of the campaign and tweets expressing dismay over it. Clive Bates, a former head of antismoking group ASH UK and a strong supporter of electronic cigarettes tweeted: “I can’t see a single positive comment. Suggests you have no credible base for this contrived and deceitful campaign”.

Writing on, Bill Godshalldirector of nonsmokers’ rights group Smokefree Pennsylvania and pro e-cigarette advocate wrote: “The San Francisco Deptartment of Public Health launched a campaign of lies about e-cigs to demonize, scare and lobby for more unwarranted vapor product regulations. CurbIt campaign tries to kick smokers and vapers to the curb.”

Local e-cigarette businesspeople are furious. Geoff Braithwaite, CEO of Tasty Vapor said: “They hope to rely heavily on the stigma that nicotine has inherited because of the medium that has been historically used to deliver it, i.e. combusted tobacco products. It’s a scare tactic. And apparently an effective one.” And some are considering what legal options are available to challenge the campaign, Mark Burton from SoCal SFATA chapter says:

"SmokefreeSF may find itself in an interesting position, in that many of its public statements appear to be factually incorrect and it's #Curbit campaign will likely have an impact on vapor product businesses.  As such, I imagine that business owners may well be exploring the possibility of litigation against the organization and the city.  If litigation is pursued, it should have a large impact, regardless of the outcome, on county and municipal E-cig policy as those entities would be on notice that should they make arbitrary and capricious decisions or implement programs and the like that appear to suffer from some level of conflict of interest, they may well be held accountable."

Famed anti-tobacco activist Dr. Stanton Glantz of UCSF features heavily on the Curbit website, and in Twitter #curbit hijacks. Glantz has been a long-time opponent of vape kits, and was recently awarded the “2014 anti-smoking myth of the year award” by Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University for “publicly spreading the myths that electronic cigarettes have been found to be a gateway to smoking among youth and that electronic cigarette experimentation leads to a lifelong addition to nicotine.”

A recent Cochrane Review of vaping concluded that vape kits containing nicotine increase the chances of long-term smoking cessation. Professor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London and one of the authors of the review, said “[e-cigs…] pose very small or maybe no health risks. They do not attract new users"

#CURBIT Lies and Deceptions

Bill Godshall has identified 12 “LIES” in the #curbit campaign:

1 “We know e-cigarettes are harmful, just like cigarettes” and “are harmful”

Cigarettes kill an estimated 480,000 Americans annually, whereas there’s zero evidence vape kits have ever caused any disease in any human. Existing evidence indicates e-cigs are at least 95% less hazardous than cigarettes, and may be closer to 100%. E-cigs have helped more than a million Americans quit smoking and several million others sharply reduce their cigarette consumption.

2 “Flavored e-cigarettes hook teens on nicotine”

There is no evidence that any nonsmoker has become a daily nicotine vaper and the vast majority of teen vapers are smokers or ex-smokers who switched to vaping. Nonsmokers experimenting with e-cigs typically use nicotine-free products.

3 “This year, 263,000 teens have used e-cigarettes but have never smoked”

The referenced CDC 2013 NYTS found “ever smoker” teens were 22 and 23 times more likely than “never smoker” teens to report “ever use” and “past–30-day-use” of an e-cigarette. The same study found 0.9% of “never smoker” teens reported “ever use” of an e-cig. The study did not look at whether or not the products being used by “never smokers” contained nicotine.

4 “E-cigarettes are not regulated”

SF banned vaping everywhere smoking is banned despite no evidence e-cigs pose risks. The state of California, and the city of San Francsico have both enacted laws banning sales of nicotine e-cigs to minors.

5 “E-cigarettes … contain tobacco related carcinogens, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals” and “toxic & cancer-causing metals & chemicals”

E-cigs contain similar trace levels of carcinogens as nicotine gums and patches, and only nontoxic trace levels of so-called toxic chemicals and heavy metals have been found in e-cig liquid and aerosol. A cup of coffee contains more carcinogens, toxic chemicals & heavy metals than an e-cig.

6 “E-cigarettes also contain highly addictive nicotine”

There is no evidence that any nonsmoker has ever become a daily nicotine vaper. Vapers have lower plasma cotinine levels that smokers, and most vapers lower their nicotine consumption over time. Many smokers who swtiched to vaping quit vaping nicotine, and many quit vaping.

7 “E-cigarettes … . are heavily marketed to youth using sweet flavors”

There is no evidence that nicotine e-cigs have ever been marketed to youth. A 2014 E-Cigarette Survey found that 80% of ex-smoking vapers use non-tobacco flavored cigarettes, and 60% of these adult vapers use sweet flavors - indicating the real market for these products. Adult cigarette smokers and ex-smokers consume >99% of nicotine containing e-cigs.

8 “E-cigarettes emit a pollution cloud that contains hazardous materials, presenting a potential danger to the public” and “secondhand harm to others”

There is no evidence that e-cigarette aerosol poses any harm or risk to the public. Those compounds emitted by e-cigarettes are below levels emitted by: cooking, carpeting, printers, cleaning products, dry cleaned clothes, hair sprays, perfume, nail polish, a cup of coffee, and even air fresheners. The only scientific review on environmental impact of vape kits concluded:

9 #ecigsarecigs

E-cigarettes (aka vapor products) are NOT cigarettes.

10 “E-cigarettes are just the latest gimmick from #BigTobacco to hook a new generation on their products”

Vapor products were marketed to smokers for nearly a decade before any tobacco company began marketing “cigalike” e-cigarettes. The original e-cigarette was invented by a chinese smoker after he watched his father die from lung cancer. E-cigs have replaced more than 3 billion packs of cigarettes worldwide since 2008

11 “The majority of e-cigarette brands are owned by tobacco companies”

Tobacco companies own less than 1% of e-cigarette brands currently on the market.

12 “San Francisco isn’t fooled by e-cigarettes, Big Tobacco”

The SF DPH has been fooling the public about e-cigarettes since the FDA unlawfully seized shipments and lied about the products in 2009.

SF DPH is unethically lying to the public, immorally protecting cigarette markets, and is committing public health malpractice by threatening the lives of vapers, smokers and secondhand smokers - Bill Godshall

Below is a selection of tweets, there are a great deal more on Twitter under the hashtag #curbit.