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.
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I presume “communicate the ‘correct’ information” means spreading the lies that ecigs are unhealthy alternatives to smoking. And once again, young people percieve the ecig as a stop smoking device and they prefer real cigarettes, why isn’t this an issue?
“As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.” – Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
Carl, you wrote to Choi, “be warned, also unlike life inside your ANTZ echo chamber, when someone is lying, we call them on it.”
Which is why you will so rarely see any high-profile Antismokers involving themselves in non-censored Internet communications. For a good example of what happens when they make a mistake and DO get involved, check out this discussion with Mr. James Repace as he served as an “expert witness” in this trial involving smoking in a condo apartment:
To see how unhappy he was with the exchange, note his attempts to have me and a few others banned from the discussion:
You can see Professor Simon Chapman in action with me and others at:
I should note that immediately after Chapman’s response to me the dialogue was closed down and censored by the board moderator. I believe the Australian Internet is generally far more prone to censorship by Antismokers than that of any other part of the world for some reason, although I don’t know just how that comes about.
An interesting sidelight on this issue just occurred to me.
The Antismokers are directly responsible for the development of e-cigs in three distinct ways aside from them simply being a healthier alternative to regular smoking while still retaining the basic “feel” of smoking:
1) They came about partly due to the social opprobrium they have attached to “the terrible stink” of tobacco smoke, a “stink” which most people never thought of as a “stink” until they had it drilled into their heads through thousands of media repetitions that they SHOULD regard it as a “stink.”
2) They came about because of the bans that so severely limited people being able to enjoy smoking during regular social activities.
3) And this is the factor that just occurred to me: They came about because the criminal levels of taxation of cigarettes made their development and sale economically feasible. If cigarettes were selling widely at a fair market price of about $2 to $3 per pack there’d be no possibility of the new market in e-cigs being economically competitive in terms of regular use, and there would have been insufficient likelihood of future profits for entrepreneurs/companies to invest in their development to make them as “good” as they are today. The current “stink” being raised over the Blu-Cig and its advertising is a case in point: I believe it’s generally being regarded by the Antis as so incredibly dangerous at least partly because of its low “entry price” at about $10 apiece for a disposable version that is supposedly equal to twenty or thirty cigarettes. When a pack of cigarettes is retailing for 6 to 14 dollars, suddenly it’s no longer an unusual expense to give an e-cig a try.
In an ideal world (assuming for the moment that we accept all the nasty things said about the health effects of smoking itself) we would see e-cigs developed to the point where they were so much cheaper than smoking that their use would become quite widespread. Twenty or thirty years from now we might see a quarter to a half or so of the population happily puffing away on e-cigarettes, getting the positive benefits that so many smokers have always ascribed to smoking, and suffering little or none of the negative side-effects that have driven health groups into supporting the moralist/controller/neurotic/stink fanatics in their War On Smokers.
Unfortunately of course, we don’t live in an ideal world. The fanatics’ craziness will combine with the greed and desperation of the government and we’ll see e-cigs taxed to keep them at a rough parity level with analog smoking. While many smokers may still switch over for reasons of health and convenience, there’ll be many more who stick with regular smoking simply because they enjoy it more and, with the taxes, there’ll be no economic incentive to switch.
To paraphrase Glantz and Proctor et al, and taking, for the moment, their figures to be accurate, the 21st Century may be the century in which Antismokers “kill” a billion people.
Michael J. McFadden
Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”
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I was a smoker for 25 years, now I vape.
I believe that analog cigarettes could be obsolete and we could live in a cigarette smoke free world IF and only IF affordable, acceptable alternatives of harm reduction are accessible to all current smokers.
Banning, chastising, demoralizing, name calling, lying, deceiving, hiding, taxing or punishing will do nothing to achieve this goal. They will however:
-fuel illicit trade and contraband that will in turn increase crime*
-leave current smokers that want to quit but have been unsuccessful on the dismally poor options of often dangerous and deadly or at the very least uncomfortable and irritating NRTs, no option but to smoke.
*”Canada, too, has seen tobacco taxes reach the levels where the price gap between illicit products and legal, tax-paid cigarettes is so large that any increases in excise taxes will be unlikely to reduce consumption nor increase revenues. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have observed a close relationship between increased tax rates and increased levels of illicit trade, as illustrated in Figure 6.
Fig. 6: Relationship between Canadian tax rates and contraband Source: Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2008 Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy, p. 8.
The RCMP explained that tax levels were the primary driving force behind tobacco smuggling in Canada: “Tax evasion has traditionally been the primary driving force behind tobacco smuggling operations. The difference in price between contraband and legal tobacco products allows for a significant profit to be made. Simply put, organized crime involvement in the contraband tobacco market is driven by greed.”
The result, in their words, is a vast “underground economy”: “Illicit sales of contraband tobacco contribute to an underground economy worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Traditionally seen as a victimless crime, tobacco trafficking is now regarded as a significant source of income for all levels of organized crime, who reinvest the substantial profits to support other criminal activities. The linkages between the illicit tobacco market and organized crime have increased exponentially over the last six years. While tobacco is a legal substance that is consumed by approximately 5 million Canadians, a growing number are purchasing contraband tobacco without realizing the negative impact it is having on Canadian communities and Canada’s economic integrity.”55