Vapers are mad as hell, Detroit Mental Health Authority just found out
Last Friday, the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority announced on Facebook a new billboard they had erected that claims vaping is equally dangerous as smoking. The posting was met with fury by vapers, and has caused long-term damage to the DWMHA’s organisational reputation.
The billboard features a close-up image of a man vaping, and features the text: “E-qually dangerous” as well as a freephone telephone helpline number and the DWMHA logo. It’s unclear at present where the billboard is located.
Greg Conley of the AVA shared the posting , commenting: “Even the prohibitionist groups you obviously adore like the Cancer Society and Lung Association will generally admit that vaping is significantly less hazardous than smoking.
Shame on you.”
Within hours, DWMHA’s Facebook was inundated with comments and “1-star” business reviews. At the time of writing DWHMA has received nearly 1000 comments on the original Facebook post, and over 2.4k reviews. All but 11 are 1-star. This is a huge reaction, and DWMHA are now saddled with negative reputation unless they can persuade Facebook to make edits.
Some might take the view that a mental health organisation should not be attacked like this. To be honest, I feel pretty queasy about it. There is no doubt, however, that their billboard is factually incorrect, endangers lives, and should never have been erected. What’s less clear is why they put it up in the first place.
In an ideal world, the DWMHA will take a look at this, realise their error and take the billboard down, but I doubt they will, and here’s why:
There’s a strong movement in the United States against tobacco in all its forms, and e-cigs are widely considered now to be a tobacco product. Sadly, this movement prevents a key piece of factual information from being widely understood: The risks to health come from smoking. All other forms of tobacco have less (and in some cases almost zero) health risk.
Historically, this has been “fine”: smokers have not fought back, and the tobacco industry has always benefitted from its most addictive product being thought of as no less harmful than other tobacco products and stopped fighting this battle years ago.
However, there now exists a grassroots movement of vapers who will not tolerate this obfuscation any longer. Unfortunately for DWMHA, they just became the first casualty in a fight that I predict will not lessen any time soon.
Judging from previous responses, DWMHA will likely attempt to portray what just happened to them as "astroturf": a co-ordinated response by the tobacco industry. This is untrue. What just happened was a genuine reaction by a grassroots movement, readying itself for a long struggle.
This is where the battle lines have to be drawn, and while I feel bad for organisations who otherwise do good work and who become casualties, it is imperative that it become known that a desire for a “tobacco-free future” is not a license to lie about vaping any longer.