During the 8th National Summit on Smokeless and Spit Tobacco, held in Albuquerque New Mexico April 18-20, 2016, California Department of Public Health employee Julie Lautsch gave a presentation titled “A Digital Game”.
Considering the slides used in the presentation, and its content, it is abundantly clear that the California Department of Public Health considers their misleading propaganda and our attempts to set the record straight nothing more than “A Digital Game”. Except in this “game”, the lives of millions of smokers are at risk but evidently they couldn’t care less about how many smokers die. Since we do not have the script, text, or recorded presentation that goes along with these slides we decided to make a valiant attempt at filling in the blanks.
SLIDE 1 : Hi, I’m Julie Lautsch and I’m with the California Department of Public Wealth. I’m here today to present you with a very misleading and twisted version of the truth in order to preserve the continuation of my job.
During this presentation I will highlight just how bad we got our behinds kicked by these nasty people who call themselves “vapers” and who are always out to find new ways to obsolete our funding because they have found a way to quit smoking that they are now trying to share with the rest of the world.
But for this presentation in particular I will focus on just a handful of these “vapers” who have become a real serious problem to our public health propaganda campaigns, not just ours from the CA-DPH. Today I will be talking about how we think of this as a “digital game” and how we hope to win that game at any cost, no matter how many more nasty smokers need to die. It’s about numbers for us, not lives. Let’s stay the course.
SLIDE 2 : This was us then and it still is us now. We, public health advocates and organizations have self elected to be clueless when it comes to vapor products and these things they call electronic cigarettes. After many decades of waging our war on smoking and smokers we’re all still very baffled at the fact that these aerosol inhaling deviants are extremely resistant to having us drag them into our war.
As many of you here today know, we are well aware of the safer alternative that electronic cigarettes and vapor products are. But we can never admit to that lest we end up without funding and jobs. We’ve worked too darn hard to get where we are today and we’re not going to give it up without a fight.
Just as we always say, our best advice is to always plead ignorance of the facts while presenting our own interpretation as the one and only set of facts that we support. Luckily the folks in the lower ranks of our organizations have bought into it so we really only need to focus on everyone else.
SLIDE 3 : We, in Public Health circles, have always feared that these cloud craving ex-smokers would unite and form an opposition to our otherwise nefarious tobacco control activities. Unfortunately they have done exactly that.
We already had major issues with those trouble makers from CASAA, those evil industry people from SFATA, and that handsome young man from the American Vaping Association. And then there was this Vaping Militia thing that we recently heard of which involves crazy people trying to shoot at us with toy guns, from what I have been told.
We really didn’t need another things trying to peal away the layers of our lies but as it stands, this Not Blowing Smoke thing happened to us overnight and we’re still trying to figure out what the heck happened. As such we will be focusing on them a lot in my presentation today as they have rapidly become a thorn in our side.
SLIDE 4 : Looking at the other side of our war we can clearly see that every time we try and pass legislation to destroy this vaping phenomena there’s a contingent of advocates calling their paint-fume sucking ilk to action. A lot of the times they are able to pull the rug out from under us. They have even gone so far as to question our theory about how vaping is a gateway to smoking.
They have not yet clued in we get away with that fear tactic because we really just call it a theory. After all, we have no proof and evidence of the contrary exists out there already. But we wouldn’t be in public health if we weren’t skilled at pretending it doesn’t exist, right?
I think this Gregory Conley fellow can be blamed for many of our day to day sufferings from other vapor advocates. If it wasn’t for his persistence and annoying testimonies a lot of these other folks would not have gotten together and united against our efforts to undermine one of the most promising life saving technologies of the past century; electronic cigarettes.
SLIDE 5 : With this growing mass of former smokers trying to help other smokers switch to a much safer alternative we were fighting a losing battle. A battle that we feel could best be waged out there in the mainstream public. If we could just get the public to believe these vapor emission devices were harmful we would have a shot at eroding their support base. It was bad enough that even non-smokers would ask one of these vaper people “gosh, what is that and why does it smell so nice?” but having legislators listen to this mainstream support for vaping really was where we had to draw the line.
So we set out to do what we in public health do best when things are not longer working in our favor; blow a metric ton of taxpayer dollars, create a problem in search of a solution, and bring out the big public relations guns.
The first thing we did was publish this “State Health Officer’s Report on E-Cigarettes” in which we collected every single lie and half-truth we have supported since we dragged all these vapor products into the war we’ve been waging on smokers. We even went as far as to claim these products were a “Community Health Threat”. Fear works. Fear always works. We have learned that in the past decades and we’re very good at it.
SLIDE 6 : We proceeded to enlist the help of the TobaccoFreeCA page on Facebook to help push our propaganda out to the masses in a modern digital way. We even held a press conference with Dr. Ron Chapman to make everything look like real serious and stuff.
The best part was the whole narrative we came up with, “Protect your family from e-cigarettes”. Combined with the lies that we mislabeled as facts there would be nothing these vaping clowns could do about it and we’d be on our way to securing more continued funding for our war on smokers.
We blew a lot of tax payer money on getting our message out through major placements in the mainstream media such as the LA Times, WIRED, CNN, WSJ, TIME, and of course the Sacramento Bee, our beloved newspaper that goes out of its way to protect our interests. Such a media onslaught was needed and we didn’t care at what cost. Smokers be damned and those anti-freeze loving liquid lickers be damned too!
SLIDE 7 : Then came the part we never expected. Our intel and years of briefing on the subject had not prepared us for the sarcastic sense of humor these formaldehyde hoovers appear to possess. Almost immediately upon the rollout of our propaganda they started circulating a parody of our well crafted message.
Their message was that families needed to be protected from Dr. Ron Chapman and the CDPH. You don’t need to protect your family from us. That’s what we’re getting paid to do and anyone who messes with that gets the sharp end of our PR stick.
We want to thank our friends in the media for not questioning whether a department with a backlog of 11,000 elder abuse complaints should be wasting time releasing a report on vaping. And since Ron resigned in disgrace shortly after the report was released, let us take this opportunity to say, “Bye Ron!”
In an online social media campaign they attempted to twist our message back into what might otherwise be considered the truth. Except as you all know, we in in public health would never use that ugly word. Truth is what we tell people. Even if we’re wrong. We don’t want any debate about it and we sure don’t want to be questioned on it.
SLIDE 8 : It was time to really dig deep so we put an RFP out to ask for the entire production of a massive media assault on the general public. We had about $7 million of tax payer money to blow on it so why not get the best we could? Our next move is what we internally referred to as our “The Empire Strikes Back” project. But we had a much better branding and a real cool name for it:
STILL BLOWING SMOKE
We had a really cool website built and we created a few videos and TV commercials that were designed to promote the use of vapor products to minors. We all know that these diacetyl addicts aren’t marketing to minors but we can. And we get away with it as the only entity in existence that does. We made all the text sound scary and every word needed to instill fear into any living soul that watched it. And I think we were highly successful in creating all that.
SLIDE 9 : In our pursuit of fear mongering we even used pictures of a baby in a cage on the Still Blowing Smoke website. Not sure who came up with that or its relevancy but it was creepy as hell so of course we all agreed to use it.
The other thing that was instrumental and critical to our campaign was to avoid the general public having any sympathy for the small businesses that form this “vapor industry” that they speak of. We can’t have the mainstream public feeling sorry for these small entrepreneurs and the jobs they create. And we certainly want all these mom & pop stores out of business now that it’s really affecting our bottom line. So we came up with a way to blame it all on the Big Tobacco companies. Nobody has any sympathy for them, not even current smokers. So they were the perfect veil for us to throw over the entire industry and hide the fact that Big Tobacco’s actual foothold in the vapor industry is marginal at best.
SLIDE 10 : Also important to our Still Blowing Smoke campaign was putting up these huge billboards all over California. A tactic that was later adopted by public health and tobacco control organizations in other States. They learned from the best, shall we say. In addition to those big boys we added advertising on gas pumps, digital media, and of course, our propaganda commercials on TV.
We made sure we used a sound track for the commercials that guaranteed to peak the interest of children because we wanted them to see the children in our commercial and the vapor pens that they were holding in their hands. It’s a guaranteed way to upset parents and scare the living daylights out of them every time our commercials ran. Unfortunately it was also a reason for man parents to switch to another channel. But we live in a free country and that’s their choice. I just hope they thought that they were looking at e-cigarette ads made by the industry or Big Tobacco so that the now misinformed public could support our claims that these flavored vapor lovers were marketing to their children.
SLIDE 11 : And we had our biggest push ever online as part of our fear campaign. We readily admit that public health is not very well versed in things that are online but that’s why we blew so much money on professional PR agencies to help us do this for us. We took out banner ads on newspaper websites, mainstream media websites, and of course the various “social media” properties that are part of our large network of tobacco control freakery.
We had been told that the online world is one where we might be met with skepticism and perhaps a little hostility. But we in public health are fearless. We can be fearless because we are the ones spreading fear to others. Except sometimes the thing you don’t fear do come around to bite you and unfortunately that is exactly what happened to us and the campaign we cared so much about. Not to mention the truckload of tax payer dollars that we had thrown at it.
We also gravely underestimated the network that these vape heads had. A single loose lipped journalist spilled some beans about our campaign to the wrong people and that’s what set into motion a series of events that has since spawned off two studies that were published in the British Medical Journal as well as the topic of my presentation here today.
SLIDE 12 : When this guy, Stefan Didak, heard about our campaign getting ready to launch he set out to find our Still Blowing Smoke website and proceeded to spend 38 hours non-stop to build a website similar to ours (but with faster and better navigation) and launched it within minutes of us launching ours. He called it:
NOT BLOWING SMOKE
Turns out that he had crazy SEO skills and immediately noticed that our prestigious PR firm completely forgot to register any social media accounts in the name of our campaign. So, instead, he did that and caused massive confusion as online traffic got routed to his website instead of ours. He pearled back the layers of our lies and presented everyone with factual and scientific information and a month later even helped expose how our MSA funding mechanisms really work.
Recently a scientific study was published in the British Medical Journal that shows exactly how the NOT Blowing Smoke campaign has destroyed all the online potential of our STILL Blowing Smoke campaign. And it was over for us within merely two days.
SLIDE 13 : The social media campaign by NOT Blowing Smoke completely decimated us and put our $7 million tax payer funded campaign to shame. They struck us on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Facebook. It got so bad and so confusing that even our own PR team started sharing the material put out by NOT Blowing Smoke while pretending they were Still Blowing Smoke. We called the PR team and had them remove the shares so we could save face.
The SEO voodoo that NOT Blowing Smoke used really angered us because all the search results for our campaign led to the top results to their campaign. But we have something they didn’t have; money! So we started throwing a ton of money at getting Google ad placement. That helped us at least stay in view for a while. Screw the 100,000 visitors that NOT Blowing Smoke got in the first 24 hours. We have endless supplies of tax payer money!
It was highly inconsiderate by the NOT Blowing Smoke folks to do this to our well crafted and nicely designed wrappers around the lies we were telling people. Did they think it was just a game or do they really care about the lives of smokers? Either way, we now consider it a game and we don’t care what we have to do to win it.
SLIDE 14 : To make matters worse, the NOT Blowing Smoke counter-campaign took off so fast and so hard that many others out there started creating parodies of our fear mongering lies and deceitful information. Some of these mod blowers were creating fake press releases that included links to NOT Blowing Smoke. Others started mocking us in social media. People created videos similar to our Still Blowing Smoke campaign but with the NOT Blowing Smoke logo and completely different messaging.
Suppressing the truth is hard work and all of us work very hard on that every day. Seeing our efforts undone by the actions of these battery sucking ding dongs. There was no way we could allow this effort to assist in uniting more of these people against us. What if they started to register to vote and used their influence? What if they started to inform the public that we’ve been lying about vapor for years? What if they could reach beyond the choir and harm our tobacco control efforts? Clearly, there was no way we could allow this to ever happen.
SLIDE 15 : Through our TobaccoFreeCA account we decided to fight back on social media by having a question and answers sessions while posting more of our misleading information. This seemed like a really good idea at the time but we are unlikely to decide on doing more of this any time soon.
We expected a lot of our anti-smoking fans to join in and help us but instead our discussions got infested by these flavored vapor addicts. They were educated and well spoken. They knew how to poke through the veil of our lies and posted dozens and dozens of scientific studies that showed that vapor was safer than smoking and that everything we’ve been saying was all wrong. It was really a sad day seeing how our counter-offensive got derailed that way.
And we violated one of our own rules; Tobacco control and public health should never engage in an open discussion with people who can easily prove us wrong. Every time we do it backfires on us. Let our suffering be a lesson to you all. You are much more effective dictating the lies from above and not engaging in any discussion with the stakeholders of these products. Or the smokers and former smokers who are stakeholders in the choices for their own health.
SLIDE 16 : In order to defend ourselves and the choice of failing with the public questions and answers section we cherry pick a few comments we received that can be perceived as hostile and we use those to label every other vapers as raving violent nutcrackers. It’s a strategy that we always use to make ourselves look better and our opponents look worse.
Let me give you an example. Because a lot of well respected people started publishing about the misleading propaganda we have been putting out we use their articles along with the cherry picked comments from a few derailed vapers in order to paint a very negative picture of those who don’t agree with us and challenge our authority.
For example, here we use an article in Forbes Magazine, written by Sally Satel, titled “Their Product is Doubt – Deceptive Government Campaign Against Electronic Cigarettes”. Putting the crazy comments alongside of it will make Mrs. Satel look like she’s part of that. It’s pretty clever of us! And how dare she expose the truth and call our campaign deceptive. That’s so uncalled for. It’s unfair to us and we’re offended greatly by this. So we will stop at nothing to smear people like her.
SLIDE 17 : Because all the truth put out by NOT Blowing Smoke was getting more traction in the mainstream media it was time to fight fire with fire using our own public relations and media contacts. We found VOX more than willing to write an article that helped us put a new term out; Big Vapor.
Because NOT Blowing Smoke was so effective in communicating that vaping is all about small business and not big tobacco we had to come up with a whole new message and “Big Vapor” sounded really good to us.
Unfortunately that didn’t last very long either. Large numbers of vapers contacted the author of the piece and some had conversations with her and as a result her follow-up articles were suddenly way more balanced than we would’ve liked to see. It’s always a sad day for us when a reporter, a journalist, or anyone else starts learning the truth and seeing just how we’ve been misleading them all along. It makes our jobs much harder.
SLIDE 18 : Considering that we still had money left to blow on futile and fruitless campaigns we decided to strike back on social media. This time with a fresh new look and a fresh new hashtag that we believe was a strong carrier for our misleading messages; #trulyfree.
But enough about our #trulyfree campaign because it was over before it got started. These annoying swarms of vapers, and I swear they are multiplying by the day, suppressed our message by once again communicating the truth out there. So to avoid me talking too much about another embarrassing failure on our part, at the tax payer expense, let’s talk about this NOT Blowing Smoke phenomena because I spent a lot of time putting their material on my slides. That and they are really getting under our skin.
While we were foaming at the mouth about them they professionalized, turned the movement into a full blown non-profit and started getting to a point where now they have become a real serious threat to us. Why else would we spend so much time talking about them? It used to be vapers talking about OUR material and actions. Now we are talking about THEIR material and actions..
SLIDE 19 : In the meantime these NOT Blowing Smoke folks expanded their team and their reach. They launched new projects like FDARegs.info and VapersVotingGuide.com. They started raising funds for something that we have been fearing for a long time. And they just kept growing and growing and gaining more ground and getting more traction. We have never seen such a thing and we’re very concerned that this will not stop.
We were happy that Dr. Robert Jackler from Stanford University went on the attack against NOT Blowing Smoke people in a publication he did in the British Medical Journal, “Electronic cigarette marketers manipulate antitobacco advertisements to promote vaping”.
He even managed to accuse them of messing with a campaign that we all know they weren’t responsible for. But that’s the great thing about being well funded and being in public health, we get to lie through our teeth if we want to all the time. And often get away with it.
SLIDE 20 : In March of 2016, NOT Blowing Smoke launched a national campaign aimed at undoing our misleading propaganda even more. They called it their “No More Casualties” campaign and are saying we are engaged in our ideological war on smoking and that our actions to prohibit vaping and limit access to these products is causing casualties. How dare they tell the truth! We don’t like that.
They are providing free content that includes posters, flyers, radio and TV commercials, and the whole kitchen sink. What a smart move. I think they must have learned that from us. We want this campaign destroyed. We want NOT Blowing Smoke destroyed. They are getting way too much in our way and if we don’t take care of it now we may have a very big painful problem on our hands that will require us to come up with even more tax payer money to deal with it.
Maybe we should come up with a way to make it look like they are the cause of all the tax payer money being wasted? It’s just an idea.
SLIDE 21 : At the risk of us sounding like a broken record we decided to drop a few more millions of tax payer money into a continuation of our Still Blowing Smoke campaign even though we don’t stand much of a chance with it.
This time around we added new things to our website about formaldehyde and diacetyl and created these nifty TV commercials that once again attempt to blame Big Tobacco for everything and another video that is meant to perpetuate the lie about how vapor products lead to smoking in teens. We even used real teens in the video. And we actually made them vape too!
And these stupid vapers are still blaming their own industry about potential possible, yet not probable, appeal to minors while we get away without being blamed for marketing to children with our really cool imagery and musical tunes.
SLIDE 22 : Just you wait for our next move. For now I will just show a blank slide because we haven’t figured it out yet. We will be here in the corner crying for a while longer. Maybe people will take pity on us and give us more money. For now, just crying and doing presentations like these in which we wail about NOT Blowing Smoke until even our own public health friends get sick and tired of hearing about it.
In the meantime, let us all keep thinking of this as nothing more than a digital game…. in which real smokers die. But it’s not like we care about that. We just pretend we do.