by Carl V Phillips
A quick post to recognize a brilliant tweet by @TobaccoTacticss. For those who do not follow that feed (and you should! — consider this a #FF), it was launched as a parody of a website published by the University of Bath (your tax pounds at work, dear UK readers) that consists of libel and ad hominem attacks about people who disagree with the tobacco control industry. For the uninitiated, that page is referred to as “the wiki” in the feed. (In a bit of self-parody, the Bath people tried to censor the feed, tricking Twitter into forcing the anonymous author to change the feed’s name a few times, but never slowing him/her down. Apparently they finally acquired the good sense to give up.) The feed has expanded to being what is perhaps the best running commentary on the sheer idiocy of the tobacco control industry.
But the feed is not just entertaining. The author provides some stunning insights, subtly presented. Here is one that made me wonder why the biting simple observation had never occurred to me before:
The link in the tweet is to a 2008 BBC article in which anti-THR activists (the WHO and ASH, specifically) complained that we just do not know enough about e-cigarettes yet to be comfortable with them. And they were right — back then. Yes, there were those who were already jumping on the bandwagon, but it is fair to say that the cautious tobacco control people, not the bandwagon, had it right at the time.
But, as noted (presumably to help out the anti-THR people who are notoriously bad with numbers), that was five and half years ago. Those of us in the reality-based community now know a lot about e-cigarettes and it is basically all reassuring. The constant repetition of c.2008 ignorance — “we just don’t know” — is no longer caution, it is a lie.
Well, let me temper that: An anti-THR activist who says “I just don’t know” is probably telling the truth, the same way most of us would be telling the truth if we said “I just don’t know how the CERN Supercollider works.” Of course, we would have the good sense and honesty not to pretend to offer engineering advice about particle accelerators, given that ignorance.
But here is the key observation: The tobacco control industry recognized that e-cigarettes were an important phenomenon a very long time ago. That industry has orders of magnitude more money for research than every independent researcher working on the topic combined. And yet they have failed to generate any useful knowledge on the topic, or even — according to their own frequent admission — acquire the knowledge that the rest of us have generated. Their ignorance tells us nothing about e-cigarettes, of course, but it might be the clearest evidence (amongst a crowded field) that the entire tobacco control industry is just wasting society’s resources.