Why We Need World Vape Day More Than Ever

    Globally, we are over 120 million strong. We are the people who used to smoke. We discovered that despite what they told us, we didn’t just have a straight choice between abstinence from nicotine and early death. Instead, we found our own paths to smoking cessation and healthier, longer lives.

    We got here from different places and in different ways. Many of us use snus or pouches. Many use heated tobacco products. But most of us—82 million, as of 2021, and counting—use vapes.

    There would be many more of us if the world’s 1.2 billion people who smoke weren’t exposed to massive amounts of misinformation about tobacco harm reduction. And that’s why we need World Vape Day—celebrated on May 30—more than ever.

    Despite our numbers, our voices are not heard. Voices dismissing what we have done are far louder. Despite having quit the cigarettes that were likely to kill us, we get no congratulations from the likes of the World Health Organization.

    I never imagined there would be such a thing as quitting smoking the wrong way.

    Much of this misinformation comes from the WHO’s coffers.

    Smoking has claimed the lives of many of my loved ones. But I quit smoking in 2015, thanks to vaping. I had tried to quit many times without vapes, but I couldn’t. I am now better able to enjoy my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I wish I could spend even more time with them.

    I find it distasteful to have to dedicate so much time instead to correcting nicotine misinformation, but I do it because I desperately want other people to have the chance I had.

    Much of that misinformation comes from the WHO’s coffers. It is shared by other public health organizations and governments, and turned into clickbait by the media.

    Instead of focusing on its earlier mission of encouraging people to quit smoking tobacco, the WHO has switched its emphasis to nicotine abstinence, lighting a fire under the moral panic over youth use.

    For the past few months, the WHO, regional WHO offices, WHO officials and WHO partners have intensified their efforts to spread misperceptions about tobacco harm reduction (THR). Ignoring the voices of millions of consumers, they work to make THR sound like nothing but a Big Tobacco ploy to mislead people.

    This campaign has targeted vapes and other reduced-risk nicotine products. Social media users have had to become fact-checkers, mobilizing on X (formerly Twitter) to counter false, inaccurate or misleading claims using community notes.

    Just since April, the following claims have earned community notes: People who vape have high levels of uranium in their urine; vaping causes seizures; vaping harms your lungs within days; vaping is a gateway to smoking, all nicotine products are extremely damaging to health; and vapes cannot be recycled.

    One tweet receiving a community note appeared to suggest that the trend of youth using less harmful vapes more often than deadly cigarettes needs to be reversed. Tweets misleading the public by stating that reduced-risk nicotine products are as detrimental to public health as smoking also now have community notes attached.

    While the WHO and many other groups continue their campaigns against any form of nicotine use, consumers around the world have left smoking behind, including many who never thought they could. The onslaught of misinformation can not extinguish our passion for spreading the truth.

    World Vape Day is a way of celebrating and sharing what we’ve accomplished—although fittingly enough, this year’s theme, as presented by the World Vapers’ Alliance, is the “Misperception Epidemic.

    People are justifiably proud they quit smoking, and use this day to tell the world about their successes and encourage others to try what worked for them.

    The first World Vaping Day (WVD) was celebrated on March 22, 2012. It was organized by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) in the United States. People in 15 countries participated in what became an annual event.

    Various advocacy groups have since spearheaded what later became known as World Vape Day. In the beginning, the date changed from year to year. In 2015, a group of consumers and entrepreneurs from Spain led the coordination and set the date for May 30, the day before World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).

    It was determined that due to the growing number of people who incorrectly believed vaping to be as harmful as smoking or worse, celebrating how effective vaping is for smoking cessation the day before WNTD would be helpful. Unfortunately, the number of people who are misinformed has only grown.

    World Vape Day rapidly garnered enthusiastic participation from people who quit smoking all over the world. So many people engage with it on social media that a 2017 study was conducted to evaluate tweets related to the occasion.

    In 2019, the ENDs Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST) group took a turn coordinating global efforts. Since 2020, the International Network of Nicotine Consumers Organisations (INNCO) has led consumers around the world in celebrating their safer choices.

    People of all ages are justifiably proud they quit smoking tobacco, and use this day to tell the world about their successes and encourage others to try what worked for them. Advocacy groups hold live online events, and some vape shops have special events where people who quit smoking are encouraged to bring in someone who would like to start on that journey themselves.

    The WHO’s WNTD 2024 main page meanwhile has little to say about adults, or even smoking. Its emphasis is on children, vapes and addiction.

    After reading the WHO’s WNTD report, Dr. Sarah Jackson, principal research fellow at University College London’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, noted that it makes “claims that do not accurately reflect current evidence on e-cigarettes.”

    South African THR advocate Kurt Yeo wrote that the WHO treats the current generation of people who smoke as “mere collateral.”

    This is true. In particular, people of numerous demographic groups, identities and nations with extremely high smoking rates—overwhelmingly people who are already vulnerable for other reasons—are ignored, dismissed and abandoned. They are presented with that traditional false choice: Quit nicotine or die.

    We must speak with a voice that cannot be ignored.

    And while the WHO focuses obsessively on youth vaping, the grandparents of those youth are among those forgotten. People who have smoked for decades and who are showing very little decline in smoking prevalence.

    Although young adults have in some places flocked to vaping as a means to quit smoking, older people are more hesitant to try it. (Sadly, I was unusual.) They may believe they are too old to experience health gains. They may also be more vulnerable to misinformation on the news.

    The WHO states: “Every human being has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

    This right to health means little if it doesn’t include giving people informed access to products that can reduce and end their exposure to the world’s biggest cause of preventable death.

    World Vape Day was created to celebrate the phenomenon that vaping has become, and I will be celebrating people’s quit-smoking stories today. To fully realize the potential of vapes and other safer nicotine options to transform global health, we need to use the power of our numbers. We must speak with a voice that cannot be ignored.



    Screenshot of 2015 protest in Ontario, Canada, by VaporsCorner National via YouTube

    • Skip started smoking when she was 10, and quit through vaping in 2015. She is an enthusiastic tobacco harm reduction advocate. She works as a direct service professional at a group home providing services for people living with disabilities. Skip also lives with a disability and was diagnosed with autism, ADHD and depression in 2020. She is the co-founder and a research volunteer for the Safer Nicotine Wiki. She previously owned a vape shop and served as the research fellow for the Consumer Center of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. She lives in Minnesota.

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