Yesterday I started dissecting the simplistic and false anti-e-cigarette claims being made by University of Minnesota researcher, and Ellen Hahn wannabe, Kelvin Choi. This post picks up where that one left off. To recount, Choi recently released a paper that contains some possibly useful historical data from a survey of knowledge and attitude about e-cigarettes. But not content to do real science, he proceeded to tack on anti-e-cigarette lies and a conclusion that does not in any way follow from the research. He then published an interview in which he bungles even the description of e-cigarettes and presents his reasons for worrying about the health effects, none of which actually involve any claim about any health effects.
I will note that the interview I am dissecting did not appear in some free weekly local paper or a radio news report. It was published by the American Public Health Association (which runs the “journal” where Choi’s paper appeared), and was clearly crafted as a written document by that organization and Choi. So we cannot attribute the gaffes to trying to dumb things down for a grade-school audience or misspeaking.
Continuing with examples of the lies that Choi and APHA chose to publish:
To date, e-cigarette marketing is not regulated.
Presumably he means in the United States (his apparent failure to recognize that regulations vary across jurisdictions is so minor among his errors that I only mention it because I need to clarify before continuing), in which case he is badly wrong. Not only is e-cigarette marketing regulated by all basic federal and state rules about truth-in-advertising and such, but it is also severely restricted in terms of health claims. Merchants cannot offer their customers any comparative risk or smoking cessation information, such as the obvious truths that switching to e-cigarettes is a good way to quit smoking for many people, or the health risk from e-cigarettes is trivial compared to that from smoking. If this is Choi’s view of anarchy, I would hate to see what he considers to be regulation.
Advertisements for e-cigarettes appear on TV, magazines, the Internet and even in social media. Cigarette advertising has been known to have a strong influence on the perceptions and the use of cigarettes.
Ah, that explains it. I believe he is mixing up the words “regulated” and “banned”, a common mistake when a native ANTZ speaker tries to communicate in English.
Therefore, it is similarly possible that e-cigarette advertising is one of the sources of influence on young adults’ views about e-cigarettes.
It is worth recalling that this interview was to tout a paper that reports results from a 2010-11 survey. There was not exactly a lot of advertising of e-cigarettes back then. This is the standard “public health” bait-and-switch: do one simple and minor bit of research on a topic, with no policy analysis and no apparent understanding of the big picture, and then claim to be an authority on what policies should be implemented.
It appears that his complaint is that advertising — you know, that “unregulated” advertising which is prohibited from truthfully informing people about the smoking-cessation benefits or comparatively low risk of e-cigarettes — is contributing to people’s knowledge that e-cigarettes have low risk and are good for quitting smoking. (Note that “knowledge” is the English word; to trANTZlate that into Choi’s ANTZ-speak, I believe their word for “knowledge” is “misinformation” when used in a context that means “knowledge that the ANTZ want to prevent people from learning”.)
I am sure the marketers will be glad to know that they are successfully communicating information that they are not allowed to communicate. I suspect that during his continuing research on this topic, Choi will eventually learn about the restrictions on the advertising and then realize, like Stanton Glantz, that he needs to crusade for broader censorship of accurate information.
He concludes this thought with:
The challenge is whether we should swiftly regulate e-cigarette advertising before the issue gets out of hand.
Even trANTZlating “regulate” into “ban”, it is difficult to make any sense of this. What issue? What constitutes “out of hand”? I am not even sure this qualifies as lying hype because although it tries to be hype, it is not at all clear what is being claimed. So, moving on…
The second challenge lies in developing a better understanding of the effective communication channels to reach specific populations and how to best use these channels. For example, we know that a lot of young adults use Facebook, but we do not know how to effectively use Facebook to communicate the correct information about e-cigarettes to young adults. I think we still have a lot to learn in that regard.
Nice discovery about that Facebook thing. Maybe he will write a paper about it before Facebook ceases being used by a lot of young adults — though I would not recommend holding your breath for that given that his claim to fame is his new paper about survey data from two years ago (ancient history in this fast-moving area, something he apparently does not understand). But, of course, we again need the trANTZlator here to point out that when he suggests exploring ways to “communicate the correct information”, he really means to “get people to believe his lies”.
Because, after all, if he really wanted to use Facebook to communicate correct information, all he would need to do is point people to pages like CASAA, the We Are CASAA members page, ECCA UK, Vapers Network, the Tobacco Harm Reduction page created by my research group (which I believe is about as old as Facebook, though most of the traffic has shifted to those others over the last few years), or any of several other very active pages with a plethora of truth and where incorrect information is seldom posted without being corrected by someone. His “we” may well be as clueless as he claims, but fortunately we are way ahead of them.
I wonder if this self-appointed e-cigarette “expert” has ever even seen those Facebook pages and our websites. Probably not, or he would not have bungled so many simple points. Still, maybe he is one of the rare ANTZ who actually reads outside of their echo chamber, and he will read this post and follow those links. I look forward to seeing his comments there trying to provide us with “correct information”. If you are reading this, Dr. Choi, please consider yourself encouraged to jump into the conversation — unlike your fellow ANTZ, we do not censor contributions from people who disagree with us. Oh, but be warned, also unlike life inside your ANTZ echo chamber, when someone is lying, we call them on it.