An interview with Hazel Mabe; vaper and activist from IG-ED (Interessengemeinschaft E-Dampfen e.V.), the first and largest German vaping association, and a member EVUN, a forum for all European vapers organisations and individuals to unite.
We were very lucky to have the chance to talk to Hazel Mabe, a lady that is a force to be reckoned with within the German vaping community. We caught up with her over Skype, and asked her not only how she got into vaping, but also how she became involved with IG-ED and EVUN, and found that protesting runs deep in her blood.
Hazel was, as she says ‘confronted with vaping’ by a friend of hers. In the German language, vaping can also mean ‘steaming with anger’ – so when Hazel’s friend posted a comment to say she was vaping, Hazel instantly thought she was angry and was having yet another fight with her husband! But thankfully not so.
It was this simple post that started Hazel’s vaping journey.
After plenty of Google searching Hazel well and truly got into vaping, and like many of us on this journey she’d smoked for 30 years and she’d smoked a lot – in the end it was 45 fags a day. She was finding it increasingly hard to walk upstairs without gasping for breath.
Starting off with a ‘ciggie like’ because that’s what she wanted, the entire concept of vaping appealed to her. It wasn’t only the fresh taste she enjoyed, but it tickled her sense of humour, as she liked nothing less than vaping where smoking was banned and then pop the ciggie like back into her pocket to the astonishment of onlookers!
But switching completely took its time; it wasn’t a case of zero cigarettes after the first vape. Hazel initially felt she would be happy with a 50% reduction in her smoking, as that was the best she had ever achieved with NRT. But after four days of vaping, she found herself having only smoked 10 of the usual 45 cigarettes, and it was then she became competitive with herself. If she made it through the day without a cigarette, she would (interestingly) “reward” herself with a cigarette just before going to sleep.
But by Xmas of 2010, roughly a month after starting her vaping journey, there were days when she was forgetting to smoke.
On the 2nd Jan 2011 Hazel had her last cigarette, as that ‘reward’ that night tasted disgusting.
3rd Jan 2011 was Hazels first smoke free day. She’s been smoke free ever since.
3 weeks after starting to vape she became involved with the German vaping forums, and gradually became more and more involved, finally becoming integrated into one of the two largest forums and becoming a moderator. As a dedicated DIY mixer, Hazel became briefly the ‘Queen of self-mixing’, helping new vapers to start mixing their own e juice, and that´s how a lot of people in the community became aware of who she was.
Asking her about this, and why she wanted to get involved in fighting the EU, Hazel quickly replied “it’s normal for me, I was a hippie in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I was a student that protested in the streets against Vietnam and the Shah of Persia, and against the government at the time, as it was bringing in emergency measures that would abolish many civil rights in Germany during a time of crisis.”
“I resist things that feel wrong, that feel unethical and I have always been anti-anything which sounds like being unjust. Very often this meant being badmouthed as being anti-establishment.”
Unfortunately due to a personal situation Hazel retired from the forums, but still wanted to continue to work for vapers, and it was suggested that she could help IG-ED.
What could she offer? Her major at University had been German language, so it evolved that IG-ED wrote the draft article they want to publish, and Hazel would just polish it up. She soon took on the role of international relations, as being an American German, (with a father that was half Native American Indian who had fought for his people), she had all the language skills required, and you can see where the protesting genes came from!
Hazel, and as a result German and EU vapers also had the added advantage that for years she had run her own PR company with her husband. From that experience Hazel learnt how people and companies manipulate the masses into believing this or that, “you mostly do it for commercial purposes but you can do it as well on a political scale, for law making, and now this experience comes in handy.”
She understood the political and regulatory game that was being played out with the TPD in the media and elsewhere.
Currently IG-ED are in a planning phase, as the German Government changed last year, unfortunately at the same time the TPD trilogue meetings were underway. German MP’s and administrative officials have moved jobs, ministries have merged, and of course there are now new people. At the moment IG-ED is busy identifying who their specialist contact persons in the new administration are, and are starting to plan a possible campaign for the members of Parliament.
At the same time, IG-ED are busy doing all they can to support the German EFVI collection of signatures. They started a project called “IG-ED on tour” which is designed to get out into the streets with a little mobile booth to inform the public about vaping in general, as well as about the EFVI initiative and about IG-ED’s work – and last but not least: to collect more supportive signatures, from passers-by who would lend them an ear.
IG-ED are also supporting German EFVI activists in establishing a German version of the British Dodo boxes – both by logistical means as well as topping the crowd funding efforts of the German EFVI activists, for financing the boxes by 10 per cent of the collected donations.
Within roughly 10 days, the community donated ~ 3,300 Euros, and IG-ED put their 10% on top resulting in enough money not only for having the boxes produced, but also for paying the postage, plus extra measures such as printing flyers, printing lists for collecting signatures and the likes.
And then there is EVUN, set up to help European vapers consumer organisations to co-ordinate what is going on in each country, to let each other know what’s happening, and to provide a stronger voice for vapers in Europe. Being a fantastic networker, the EVUN Facebook page can now boast 1’148 members from across the EU.
As Hazel says, “ We need to communicate with MEPs and the Eurocrats at eye level, not from a submissive position. After all, WE pay THEM!”
“I’m passionate about this. The EU are taking us all for a ride mostof the time, and people don’t realise it!”
“The EU does give us a few advantages, and people seem to only see those, we can’t allow the EU to lead us down a road of destruction. Working previously with very high-ranking Politicians I have no fear of the EU. Be as brilliant as Helmut Schmitd and then I might just respect you! At the moment the EU are M.B.A. – ‘mediocre but arrogant’ – especially the politicians that were involved in trilogue, they have no backbone!”
Talking of the upcoming European Parliament elections, Hazel feels that lots of vapers will vote for the alternative groups as they are fed up, but in Germany the alternative group has no idea about electronic cigarettes. “I wrote to them asking for their position towards the e-cigarette, but for them this is not an issue, they are too busy campaigning on leaving the Euro, claiming that the Euro makes slaves of us all. I can understand it from their point of view – it’s always the big bankers that pull the strings, of all the governments, and it’s Big Industry pulling the strings of MEPs and Committee members by lobbying them to a point where they forget who they should be obliged to and I would love to be one of those who remind them.”
And her final comment to end the interview? “See, I told you I was wayward.” And we are very grateful that she is.