Ten perverse intellectual contortions: a guide to the sophistry of anti-vaping activists

This puts it nicely:

Life is short and shorter for smokers. Just legalise vaping.

That statement is a plain-speaking and hyper-concise dissenting report from Andrew Laming MP, one of two dissenting reports from Australia’s recently-completed parliamentary inquiry into vaping  (The other dissenting report provides a model of clear, concise reasoning too, and, unusually, the dissent came from the committee chairman, signalling a welcome fracture in Australia’s political support for prohibition)

Though short, it is basically right and sufficient: no-one is trying to live forever; everyone is trying to enjoy the life they have; some people like the drug nicotine or don’t want to quit enough to stop using it; smokers die earlier because of smoke; vaping avoids the smoke problem and does not appear to create new material problems; so it follows that vaping should not be illegal. In fact, it should be encouraged.  It really is that simple.

The dissenting reports prompt me to raise the issue of simplicity versus sophistry in the debate over tobacco harm reduction. This has bugged me for years. Vaping and tobacco harm reduction is basically simple. The arguments raised against it by anti-vaping opponents are laden with sophistry.

This blog looks at ten forms of sophistry used by anti-vaping activists to fabricate and fuel faux controversy. It is longer than I would like,  but the subject is far from exhausted. Please dip in.

Continue reading “Ten perverse intellectual contortions: a guide to the sophistry of anti-vaping activists”

Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and the mindless mob behaviour of tobacco control

An update from the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, Cape Town

This is an update to an earlier post about the PMI-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW). My main argument in that post can be summarised as: Continue reading “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and the mindless mob behaviour of tobacco control”

Tobacco control and the tobacco industry – a failure of understanding and imagination

What about the war on disease and premature death? They just aren’t the same thing.

Tobacco control activists and academics are gathering in Cape Town for the World Conference on Tobacco or Health 2018 (#WCTOH2018).  High on the agenda is the role of the tobacco industry and how to fight it (e.g. see this session:”Breaking Big Tobacco’s Grip“).

In a guest posting below, David Sweanor provides an alternative perspective they are unlikely to hear discussed much at their conference.

Continue reading “Tobacco control and the tobacco industry – a failure of understanding and imagination”

Letter to the Foundation for a Smoke Free World about money, governance, conflicts and Philip Morris International

For some, it would be better to waste a billion dollars

Go straight to letter (PDF) or cover note and letter

Update January 2018: reply to this letter from Dr Derek Yach

So, a big tobacco company puts up $1 billion over twelve years to fund a foundation with an objective “to accelerate global efforts to reduce health impacts and deaths from smoking, with the goal of ultimately eliminating smoking worldwide“. I certainly share that goal or something like it (see my ‘endgame’ scenario), and would like to see plenty of money spent wisely on pursuing that cause.  But then there is the issue of a big tobacco company putting up the money.  Should it be dismissed as the obviously flawed work of evil-doers? Or is the opportunity too important to pass over?  Continue reading “Letter to the Foundation for a Smoke Free World about money, governance, conflicts and Philip Morris International”

In cheap publicity stunt Royal Society of Public Health sounds a fake alarm about a non-problem

Life-saving retail outlet serving adults – no need for ‘public health’ to be involved (note: photo not UK)

Today the Royal Society of Public Health is pitching its ‘undercover investigation’ into vape shops selling stuff to adults who don’t smoke. Naturally, the primary purpose of this exercise has little to do with public health but is a publicity stunt for an ailing organisation in a declining field that offers ever less to the public or to health.

Here’s the release: Undercover investigation finds 9 in 10 vape shops prepared to sell to non-smokers – and some predictable media have duly obliged the RSPH’s lust for publicity with the uncritical reporting we have come to expect in this field.

I have written to this Royal Society of Public Health explaining why I am “dismayed and disappointed” by such a cheap stunt. Here’s the letter: Continue reading “In cheap publicity stunt Royal Society of Public Health sounds a fake alarm about a non-problem”

Are e-liquid flavours really “hooking another generation of kids”?

Attraction to vaping? Or attraction from smoking? Or just a consumer preference?

Predictably, depressingly, the US anti-vaping lobby has mobilised against a new Cole-Bishop Bill, HR 1136 that would hold off near complete destruction of the industry by grossly disproportionate FDA deeming regulation and implement the first steps in a sensible reshaping of American tobacco policy. But look at the argument they used.

“By working on what purports to be a technical change, “ Myers said, “ it leaves on the market the candy and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes that are so popular among young people.”

“You can put any gloss on it you want, this is the tobacco industry’s effort to continue to market flavored tobacco products to hook another generation of kids.

You hear this narrative a lot: regulators protecting kids from industry predators bearing flavours as bait. But I just wonder whether the anti-vaping activists have paused to even think about flavours and teens at all. 

To evaluate the demand to regulate these flavours (by which they mean ban them) you first need a framework for thinking about the issue – and that is not simple and may yield surprises.

Here is how I would think about this… Continue reading “Are e-liquid flavours really “hooking another generation of kids”?”

The critic’s guide to bad vaping science

bad-science
“Full of sound and fury but signifying nothing” – Shakespeare

This is part one of a twin post. Part 2 is Five questions to put to the US Surgeon General on e-cigarette science (next posting).

To respond to the forthcoming publication of a new US Surgeon General publication on e-cigarettes, I have have expedited my long-planned guide to bad science in the field of e-cigarettes and vaping in the hope that commentators, opinion formers and members of the public will give this review proper critical scrutiny.

So here it is: Version 1.0 of a critic’s guide to bad e-cigarette and and vaping science. This is the informed critic’s plain language guide to questioning the science of sensationalist and alarmist e-cigarette studies.

Here it is: The critic’s guide to bad vaping science (PDF – 15 pages)

This is the table of contents, which I hope is in itself a handy guide to interrogating bad science.  Continue reading “The critic’s guide to bad vaping science”

Anatomy of a public health tweet

Capewell Tweet 30 Sept 2016
Professor Capewell is worried – but why?

Professor Simon Capewell, the Vice President of Health Policy at the Faculty of Public Health, states in a tweet on 30 September 2016.

Vaping adverts could lead children to try smoking cigarettes

But how true is that? And how much care did Professor Capewell take to ensure that it is a reasonable thing to say? Let us examine:

  1. How wrong is Professor Capewell’s tweet?
  2. How much blame is attributable to the study authors?
  3. In conclusion: what should we make of this tweet?

Continue reading “Anatomy of a public health tweet”

The wilful ignorance of tobacco control McCarthyites

mccarthy2

Just when you thought public health could sink no lower, it pulls it off again! This time, a couple of “tobacco control” organisations, CTFK and ENSP, have been writing to several participants in a conference (GTNF 2016) to be held next week. The letters tell them they must be mistaken, that they can’t possibly have realised tobacco companies were involved and that they should pull out before it is too late.  All backed with a threat of reputational damage if they don’t. I find this deeply depressing and disturbing. Let’s take a look at:

Continue reading “The wilful ignorance of tobacco control McCarthyites”

Are they nuts? The dysfunction and decadence of tobacco control in one chart

Ecig acceptability

The chart of an audience poll from the Global Tobacco Dependency Treatment Summit 2016 (23-24 May 2016, twitter:#TDTSummit16) is deeply disturbing…

Continue reading “Are they nuts? The dysfunction and decadence of tobacco control in one chart”