THR adoption model illustrates several lies

by Carl V Phillips

I am outsourcing to myself today.  I just posted, at my EP-ology blog, a video of a talk I gave last week which presented a social-dynamics-based model of the spread of THR adoption in a population.  The video speaks for itself and my other post contains more details about the modeling, so I will offer only the briefest of summaries here and then emphasize a few points about how it relates to anti-THR lies.

The video starts with a general background about THR and the case for it.  Early feedback is that this is a particularly good version of that, so you might be interested in that part alone.  As for the new model, it shows how adoption of e-cigarettes moves like a contagion through a population (though unlike a simple disease contagion, it involves individuals learning and making rational economic decisions).

The premise of the modeling challenges one of the fundamental anti-THR lies, the claim that smokers are not making a choice to smoke and that somehow they are just accidentally doing it:  You cannot model individual choice without recognizing that individuals are choosing.  And you cannot model that without recognizing that they are rationally choosing what seems best for themselves.  Whatever exactly “most smokers want to quit means” (I have written about that previously), it clearly does not mean “prefer to not smoke today when offered the choice”, because they obviously are offered the choice.

A model of deciding to switch to THR requires recognizing that smokers are making that choice because they want to, which means that the benefits exceed the costs.  The very existence of what is represented by each of those words in italics is denied by most the anti-THR liars and other ANTZ.  Their entire deadly game is premised on the denial of those concepts.

Of course, an analysis cannot demonstrate its own premises.  I have to assume that is a lie to be able to even do the work.  But the model’s output does demonstrate the wrongness of another claim:  There is a classic anti-THR claim that THR is not worth pursuing because not too many smokers are interested in it.  The basis for that claim was that not too many have adopted THR (except in a few places like Sweden).  I do not hear this very often any more.  Maybe the ANTZ have given it up, though they probably still repeat it in their echo chambers, where every lie, no matter how thoroughly debunked, lives on as a zombie.  I fact, at the same conference where I gave the talk, I was astonished to hear one of the attendees dredge up that moronic, obviously false, and even explicitly debunked claim that THR is like jumping from a 5th floor window rather than 10th floor.  But I digress…

The claim of little interest is obviously a stupid excuse for an argument against encouraging THR.  Just because most people do not eat enough vegetables does not mean that we stop pointing out that it would be a healthy choice to make.  Beyond the silly “we should not try” claim, though, the model shows why it is wrong to even think “we should not be optimistic” (though perhaps an honest mistake and not a lie, because the reasoning necessary is a bit tricky — thus the model).

The model shows that adoption of THR will typically slowly increase over a long period of time and then reach a tipping point and jump up sharply.  This is not an artifact of particular details of the model design — it happens pretty much no matter what details are used.  This means that the fact that only, say, 5% of smokers have adopted THR as of now does not mean that it will not hit 60% within a couple of years.  The abstract model cannot show that this will happen, of course, but it shows that something like that seems very likely at some point in the adoption of THR.

The model also demonstrates that a constant low-level anti-THR campaign (or a campaign against a particular THR product category) can dramatically delay the time at which the tipping happens.  In other words — in keeping with what many of us have been saying all along — the reason THR has not been more successful yet is that the ANTZ have delayed it.  The lack of massive uptake to date is not an argument against promoting THR; rather it is an argument against their behavior.

To put that in context and for more details, follow the link and watch the video.

3 responses to “THR adoption model illustrates several lies

  1. Pingback: Tobacco Harm Reduction adoption - A talk by Professor Carl V Phillips

  2. Never heard the 10th floor 5th floor argument before, (probably a good thing for my own sanity and peace of mind) for that argument to reflect the argument clearer, the order of magnitude has to be slipped into the analogy somewhere. You’d have to consider the block of flats as being 100 storeys high and Harm Reduction being the choice of escape, for want of a better word,

    The goal I presume is to emphasise that you’re going to die either way. Which of course we all are, not smoking is hardly the holy grail of eternal life, but, to follow the logic of the argument: You could see it as the difference between jumping from the roof and being given the keys the front door.

    I would prefer an analogy of Bungee cord being THR, all the thrill of the jump with less risk :)

    • Carl V Phillips

      That old paper of mine that I linked to pretty much sums it up. And, yes, the game is to suggest that something that is 1/100th as risk is somehow no better. In my mind, the silly metaphor that they use makes the (murderous) lie even more hateful.

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