I am aiming to chat to as many “THR Superstars” as I can – here is the first in the series!
Mark Oates is a UK based pro-vaping advocate and the director of pressure group We Vape.
We Vape has a simple mission statement and that is to raise the collective voices of UK vapers and to lobby politicians on issues that may effect our right to vape.
Mark is also the man behind the new UK campaign Back Vaping Save Lives.
It’s hoped as many UK vapers as possible will send in their personal quit smoking via vaping stories, and these will be collated and used as evidence at the World Health Organization COP9 meeting later this year.
As you’re probably aware, the WHO is calling for either a total global vape and flavour ban and/or the strictest vape legislation – changing the face of vaping as we know it.
It’s campaign groups such as We Vape that will be leading the fight against stone-age style anti-vape rhetoric and the campaign needs you the vaper to get involved before it’s too late.
OK, let’s find out more about Mark, We Vape and of course the #BackVapingSaveLives movement.
First a little bit about yourself, your job – age – are you married, single, kids?
When I’m not campaigning on harm reduction, I’m a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, an Army Reservist and I also do some security work which involves breaking into buildings to find their weak spots.
I am currently a bachelor, and spend my time in London between a flat with my girlfriend and a canal boat that I built with a good mate of mine.
How long had you smoked and how many per day?
Smoking was a gradual thing from a young age, no really starting point, but it increased when I was working in the wine industry in California, I subsequently went out to live in China and with cigarettes being 50p a pack and the smog in Beijing seemingly being worse than smoking I didn’t hold back.
I enjoy nicotine and find it helps with my work, but I would always prefer to use it in a manner that doesn’t damage my health and the sport I take part in.
Can you remember your first vape kit and e-liquid? And what do you vape on now?
Other than the odd vape pen which I can’t remember the brand of, the first Mod I bought was the Innokin Coolfire IV.
To begin with I used Totally Wickeds Tobacco flavour, but since then moved on to doughnut style flavours for some reason, I am currently using Loaded Glazed Donuts.
When did you first become involved in vaping advocacy and why?
So my journey in harm reduction began when in the school holidays I was enlisted by my mother who was a family planning nurse to fill brown paper bags with condoms.
I then became increasingly interested as a teenager in politics and drug policy. This led me to spend 6 years working in the British Parliament.
I thought it ridiculous that Snus was illegal even though it was far safer than smoking and so started a campaign to legalise snus (The Snus & Nicotine Pouch Users Association).
Ultimately, the evidence is clear that harm reduction works and despite Britain being fairly good compared to other countries there is still much more that can be done to introduce it in the field of drug policy.
Vaping has had an enormous impact in the UK and we cannot be complacent, when you look at the World Health Organisation and its anti vaping stance, there is a real risk that this could come and affect the UK at some point.
Why and when did you create We Vape?
I started We Vape last year (2020) from my canal boat during the first covid lock down, the website building process was probably the hardest bit and led to quite a lot of frustration!
I started it because I wanted to find a way of getting more every day vapers involved in the politics around vaping.
There are around 3.5 million vapers in the UK, that’s a big number politically, political parties should be queuing up to show their support for vaping and We Vape is all about telling politicians to listen to us and take us seriously.
What are the main aims of We Vape?
We Vape aims to mobilise vapers so that they aren’t ignored.
The UK has fairly supportive vaping policies but we both need to protect that but also encourage more to be done.
With 52% of smokers either not knowing if vaping is safer than smoking or thinking it is more dangerous we have a lot of work to do to try and inform smokers and the public too.
This year’s COP 9 meeting is important because previously vaping has been left outside of the international framework and regulations have been left to individual member states to decide.
However, there are calls for this to change and this could lead to flavour bans and other regulations that could actually hinder people switching from smoking to vaping.
What kind of presence has We Vape attracted among the media and UK politicians?
It’s early days but we have already been quoted in the Express, the Daily Mail, MSN, The Metro and also in French and Polish papers.
I was really pleased to be invited to provide oral evidence to the APPG for Vapings inquiry into COP9 and their beyond TPD inquiry.
I am hoping to meet even more MPs this year and discuss our COP9 Back Vaping Save Lives campaign.
The UK isn’t going to reach the Governments target of being smoke free by 2030. They need to take a proactive approach to informing smokers of the safer alternatives that are available such as vaping. Our Director Mark Oates quoted in The Sun https://t.co/yCujPvypjX
— WeVape (@WeVapeUK) June 3, 2021
Why should UK Vapers support We Vape?
If Vapers want to be able to keep on vaping rather than having their freedom to do so taken away then I think they should join We Vape.
There are very real threats to vapers liberty, Michael Bloomberg isn’t going to stop his attacks on vaping so why should vapers stop standing up for themselves.
It doesn’t take much effort either, by joining We Vape we keep you updated on what’s happening. When to sign petitions, respond to consultations.
What is the biggest problem UK vapers and the vaping industry is facing?
Right now the biggest threat comes from the World Health Organisation who have openly congratulated Governments like India who have banned vaping.
They have a lot of power both at COP9 and also with Governments.
Politicians need to be reminded that it is us that put them in power not supranational organisations like the World Health Organisation.
There’s also a real risk coming from wealthy philanthropists who are anti vaping and might see the UK as a thorn in their anti vaping side.
Tell me more about the new pro-vaping campaign “Back Vaping Save Lives”
Governments from across the world will meet this November to discuss regulations and policies in relation to tobacco, this could lead to agreements being made internationally that affect UK Vapers such as flavour bans.
The #BackVapingSaveLives campaign aims to encourage the Government to stand up for the UKs vaping laws on the international stage, in order to prevent the international community from imposing anti vaping laws on us.
There’s also a humanitarian aspect, vaping has been incredibly successful at reducing smoking harms in the UK, we should be encouraging other countries to follow our lead.
So if you’re a vaper go to www.back-vaping.co.uk and join the campaign by writing a short message to your MP and the Government to tell them your story about how vaping helped you.
I’d like to thank Mark for taking time out of his hectic schedule to chat with us and tell us more about We Vape and of course the Back Vaping Save Lives campaign.
These are trying times indeed for vaping with country after country falling under the WHO anti-vape spell.
Whilst here in the UK we are ‘lucky’ to have a supportive government, to some extent, and a backbone of globally respected health institutions standing up for the benefits of vaping as a harm reduction tool, all that could change in a flash.
Now, more than ever, it’s crucial we the vapers continue to pressure the UK Government and get our voices heard.
As Mark says, there’s 3.5million of us [and growing] and if we band together no political party can ignore us.
Do the right thing now and find out more via the links below: