Last week, a brand new vaping advocacy website just appeared out of the blue. Normally, as vapers we’d be excited about even more help in our uphill battle. But this new site has been met with healthy skepticism, to put it politely. Why is it some folks smell something fishy?
You see, the reason why people have their dander up is because this particular site is paid for by tobacco giant Altria. At first it seems to make sense. All the major tobacco companies have a dog in this hunt after all.
Not to mention, any kind of vaping advocacy movement would be stoked to have the war chest and political connections a player like Altria can bring.
So what’s the problem?
Altria is interested in protecting Altria’s products and not much else. In fact, the company actively lobbied the FDA to regulate everything that’s not their product out of existence during the comment period for deeming regulations.
Now, if the website advocated to protect gas station e-cigarettes, maybe that would be understandable. But, here’s a quote from the flavor bans section of the website:
Adult smokers and vapers should have choice in the e-vapor products they use, including flavored products. Laws that severely restrict or ban flavors in vapor products interfere with adult consumer choice, and are unfair.
If you compare that to the article I linked earlier, it seems that there’s a bit of cognitive dissonance going on here.
Was a Big Tobacco exec somewhere visited by the ghost of vaping past?
The Conspiracy Theory
Ok, so I think the odds of Altria having a change of heart is slim-to-none. Therefore, there has to be an angle here. I suspect this is an attempt to paint vaping advocacy as an Astroturf front put on by Big Tobacco.
Just last week, I wrote a piece about how public health goons are trying to claim the very genuine efforts of vapers to fight against the coordinated misinformation campaigns against the industry.
I pointed out that exhibit A. for the Astroturf theory was NotBlowingSmoke.org, a site built for next to no money by a couple vapers.
Well, fast forward a week, and all of a sudden there’s a slick site calling on people to defend their vaping rights and to sign an online petition (don’t get me started on those).
Oh yeah, and featured prominently in the footer of every page, is this.
I’m sure there’s some sort of disclosure required when a company directly funds advocacy. That’s probably why companies running Astroturf campaigns try to hide behind shell groups and stuff. This is right out in the open for everyone to see.
Quite simply, by propping up this site, Altria seems to be attempting to paint all vaping advocacy efforts as Astroturf campaigns by “Big Vapor.”
Now it doesn’t matter how many people swear that they are just vapers trying to protect something they value. Opponents just point to this site and cry bullshit. Game over.
But wouldn’t they be hurting themselves too, you ask? NO, I say! Because if you look at the measures in place and being pushed that would be bad for consumers, you’ll see that they’re great for a business model such as Altria’s.
If flavors, online sales and refillable devices are all wiped out, that pretty much just leaves the closed systems you find in gas stations already. You know, like Altria’s Mark Ten.
I reached out to VaperRights.com for a comment. I have not received a response prior to publishing this post. If I get something, I’ll update this post.
So, what do you think? Am I off base here? Leave a comment and let me know!