Colin Mendelsohn’s new book about vaping is out just in time to buy as a holiday gift for smokers, new vapers, nervous family members of smokers and vapers, and open-minded smoking cessation counselors. It would also benefit the elected officials in your city or state that are planning to make vaping a lot harder for you in the near future—if they had enough curiosity to make the gift worthwhile.
Mendelsohn is an Australian doctor who has worked directly with people who smoke for more than three decades. A few years ago, he was introduced to the idea of vaping as an alternative to smoking. He grasped the potential immediately, and jumped headlong into the world’s least necessary controversy.
His motivation was to help save people who smoke from disease and death (both his father and father-in-law died of cancer from smoking). However, in Australia, where the position of tobacco control activists and medical organizations is a nearly universal belief in nicotine abstinence and vaping prohibition, it’s been a struggle.
The reader gets some of that in Stop Smoking Start Vaping, but the book isn’t a memoir. It’s really a how-to guide for potential vapers, and an explanation of the science and controversy of vaping. While it’s geared somewhat to Australian readers, Mendelsohn has siloed the Australia-specific political discussion in one chapter, and kept the bulk of the book largely universal. When his advice is meant for Australia only, it’s clearly explained.
Aimed at people who would benefit from vaping, Stop Smoking Start Vaping provides information and advice to help them get started—along with inspiration in the form of short bios of former smokers who’ve switched to vaping. The book offers an excellent roundup of the science on vaping, with citations to the original research, and debunks a lot of the “news at 11” stories potential vapers have probably seen, like popcorn lung and “EVALI.” If you’re someone who smokes and has been scared off from vaping, the book is reassuring, but it’s not one-sided.
Mendelsohn’s writing is clear and understandable. He doesn’t come across like a scientist trying to impress with his acumen (and he’s not writing for scientists either), but he doesn’t aim low either. Almost anyone interested or involved in the debate over vaping—politicians and medical professionals, for example—could understand and benefit from reading this book.
That said, Stop Smoking Start Vaping is really intended for people who smoke or have just quit smoking. It’s put together in discrete pieces, so a potential vaper can read it in chunks—the how-to section first, for example, and then come back for the science and explanations of the news controversies. Mendelsohn has even created a glossary of vaping terms.
The only real argument I can think of against the book is the price. I don’t mean that it’s especially expensive ($26.95 in the United States), just that a major hurdle for smokers considering vaping is often the startup cost—and the fear the investment will be money wasted if vaping doesn’t work to replace cigarettes. Now we’re asking them to buy a vaping setup and a book. But that’s not a major objection really.
Colin Mendelsohn has impressive credentials—as any doctor wishing to push back against his field’s dominant philosophy on vaping must. Mendelsohn is a medical doctor, and worked as a general practitioner for almost 30 years. He is a smoking cessation specialist, and previously served as vice president of the Australian Association of Smoking Cessation Professionals, the country’s leading organization for smoking cessation experts.
As the founding chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), Mendelsohn has probably been the leading light in the struggle to reverse destructive Australian policies that have criminalized vapers and vaping businesses. Mendelsohn has been repaid for his desire to bring low-risk nicotine choices to Australian smokers with despicable attacks on his character and reputation, including unfounded claims that he is bankrolled by the tobacco industry.
The UK National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) has endorsed Stop Smoking Start Vaping in a message to its mailing list of stop-smoking professionals, and the book has received praise from experts on smoking and nicotine like Riccardo Polosa, John Britton, Peter Hajek and Neal Benowitz.