Propaganda – WHO Would Have Expected This?


PropagandaThe very same day that the World Health Organization launched its latest attack on electronic cigarettes one of the UK’s best-selling newspapers ran an article making exactly the same claims.

If you were really suspicious you might suspect a major international PR agency was somehow involved. Of course that can’t be true… 

The World Health Organization has now laid its cards on the table when it comes to electronic cigarettes; it doesn’t care if they’re healthier than actual cigarettes and wants them banned anyway.

I’ve already discussed the stunningly inaccurate report they released on Wednesday, but it’s throwing up quite a few other things that are worth a closer look. Specifically, while the WHO doesn’t know anything about e-cigs they seem to be quite switched on when it comes to manipulating the media – and it’s coming pretty close to being propaganda. 

The very same day as the WHO released their report, the Daily Telegraph ran a lifestyle piece on e-cigarettes by Rachael Lloyd. It had it all. Her amazement at finding something so enjoyable, her relief at hearing how much healthier than smoking it was and even her dazzled thoughts about how vaping was so cool and why wasn’t everyone doing it? Then it all began to go horribly wrong. 

Ms Lloyd started to worry about how much she was spending on vaping. She was laying out ?30 a week on e-cigarettes and felt increasingly dependent. Finally she spoke to her chemist, who is of course your best possible source of up-to-date health advice. 

The chemist, a Mr Patel, was shocked and told her to stop “smoking” e-cigs right away, before passing on some (highly inaccurate) scare stories about nicotine and formaldehyde.

Lloyd then went to her doctor who told her she was “smoking” the equivalent of 40 cigarettes a day. The end result was that Lloyd decided to quit vaping, which she found difficult enough that she had to use nicotine patches. 

So. What’s Rachael Lloyd? Is she an innocent victim who narrowly avoided a horrible death at the hands of e-cigs, or is she a luckless vaper who was given inaccurate advice by a pair of badly informed cretins? 
Neither. She’s an employee of an international PR agency. 

Reading the article, it’s easy to pick out the carefully crafted triggers. The ?30 a week she was spending on vaping? That’s a lot of Vype disposables. Allegedly she vaped for two years.

Surely she’d have picked up an Intellicig starter kit or another decent carto-based system to save a few quid – she could easily have got the nicotine equivalent of 40 a day for less than a tenner a week.

Except that wouldn’t have sent the right message about vaping being an expensive habit, would it? 

And a trendy habit, of course. It’s a “hip, environmentally friendly” thing to do and “Why wasn’t everybody doing it?” Carefully worded to show how vaping is a tempting trap for the unwary, who’ll be sucked in by the glamour and instantly addicted. She actually wrote “I was a vape addict.” Uhuh.

What’s the scientific evidence that vaping is actually addictive? That would be zero. However just to make sure everyone knows how alluring it is there was a picture of Lily Allen with a Vapestick in her hand.

Because, you know, we all want to be like famous people. 
“Mr Patel”’s health claims are just rubbish. There’s no evidence at all that nicotine causes circulation problems or heart disease, and to make an e-cig produce more formaldehyde than is naturally contained in your breath you have to deliberately abuse it. This is just scaremongering.

The same goes for the claims that a doctor told her it was the equivalent of smoking 40 a day – it’s nonsense. Cleverly, Lloyd worked in the obligatory reference to children; when advised to stop vaping, she said, she felt like her sweets were being confiscated. 

Finally there’s the struggle to quit vaping, which she could only manage with the help of WHO-approved (but almost completely useless) nicotine patches.

The message here: Vaping is as addictive as smoking. Of course as any real vaper knows you just don’t crave it the same way as you do tobacco. If a smoker leaves home without their cigarettes they’ll stop at the first shop to buy a pack. When a vaper goes out without their e-cig they’ll just shrug and wait until they get back. Absolutely nothing about this story is believable. 

Then again, Rachael Lloyd isn’t just a random person with a story to tell. She works for BLJ London, an “international strategic advisory consultancy” that specialises in “policy, legislative and market access campaigns”.

The WHO’s jihad against e-cigarettes is focused firmly on changing policy, encouraging legislation and denying market access – just the sort of campaign BLJ discreetly carries out for its high-profile clients. And yes, “discreetly” is their description, not mine. 

Of course I’m absolutely not suggesting anything here. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that a WHO report and an article by an influencer-for-hire, both making exactly the same misleading and dishonest claims about vaping, were published on the same day. Makes you think though, doesn’t it?

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