by Carl V Phillips
Today, the New York Times Editorial Board, in an apparent backlash against their excellent columnist (one of the two), Joe Nocera, exercising his autonomy to write something honest about e-cigarettes, published both an anti-ecig screed by two leading liars and a general anti-THR screed of their own (mostly about e-cigarettes, though the headline was about smokeless tobacco). Needless to say, both are thick with lies. Honestly, they are pretty boring, but for the record, I thought I should call out a few points.
The former was written by David Kessler and Matthew Myers, who I will refer to collectively as “Messler”, because it amuses me. Messler began by referencing – misleadingly, of course – the new CDC statistics about e-cigarettes and teenagers. Of course, they referred to the statistics as “use” even though they only thing that was measured was trialing. Messler then go on to invoke the tired trope about how e-cigarette merchants are marketing “using the same playbook cigarette companies have”. Yes it is truly horrifying that these merchants did not figure out some way to advertise without including any of (these were their examples) celebrities, TV and magazine ads, portrayals of the product as glamorous, and sponsorships of events. Basically if someone the ANTZ do not like were merely communicating using English sentences – just like the cigarette companies do!!! – they would assert that they were acting exactly the same.
The main focus of the commentary is about how e-cigarettes have “escaped federal regulation”. Cute language huh. It puts the blame for the government utterly failing to come up with any reasonable and rational proposed regulation on the product. They do go on to put the blame on actors rather than inanimate objects — that it is “wending its way through the bureaucracy” and such. But they conveniently omit that the wend-swept bureaucracy in question is the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, an operation that was built to be dysfunctional. Who contributed to building it? No one more so than these two authors. It was Kessler’s idea, though he could not pull it off during his time at the FDA, and it was Myers whose Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids worked out the secret deal with Altria to create the enabling legislation.
They then descend into the usual breathless statements about the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes. But, funny thing, they do not actually say that e-cigarettes cause any harm. They want the reader to just believe they are baaad. Because…um…well, they look like smoking! And nicotine addiction (never mind there is not apparently such a thing)! And…sputter sputter… Big Tobacco!
Yeah, whatever. The usual boring lies.
It gets better when they, in the context of complaining about CTP’s glacial pace, assert:
During that time, e-cigarette proponents lobbied heavily – and successfully – against restrictions on marketing or use of flavors.
So, yea us!
Actually that is really only half-true. There have been almost no proposed restrictions on marketing – which is not exactly the proponents’ fault, huh, Messler? — and not much pushback against those that were proposed. The real fight has never been about marketing. Marketing only seems to matter to dinosaurs like Messler who think it is still 1975 and we are talking about marketing that promotes smoking rather than promoting smoking cessation. Indeed, rambling on about marketing is pretty much a shibboleth for someone trying to refight the battles of their long-lost youth.
The New York Times Editorial Board’s (hereafter, Newtboar) used their own byline to write something that was apparently intended to make the Messler column they comissioned look substantive and honest by comparison. It leads with:
The makers of smokeless tobacco products like to claim that their products are safer than cigarettes because users don’t inhale the tars and toxic chemical from burning tobacco.
As you might guess from the phrasing, they go on to imply that such a claim would be false. It is, of course, true by a factor of 100 or so. It would be even more true if the claim were that we know the products are safer because the epidemiology shows beyond any hint of a doubt that they are safer. What is not true, however, is that the manufacturers like to claim it. They would like to claim it, but they are prohibited by law. So Newtboar is out-and-out lying with this statement.
Newtboar then takes a non sequitur leap to e-cigarettes, making some of the exact same comments that Messler made (funny that), only they phrased them worse and made stupid little errors because, you know, they are professional journalists. My favorite was:
Nicotine is highly addictive, no matter how it is taken in.
Dear journalism majors: If you cannot even define an adjective, let alone figure out how to quantify it, you might want to avoid attaching the adverb “highly” to it. Also “is taken in” is not exactly elegant prose. Perhaps most important, you might want to check with your paymasters in pharma before saying such a thing, because they strongly disagree.
I LOLed at Newboar’s version of the “just like cigarette marketing” trope:
Major tobacco companies are selling e-cigarettes with the same tactics used to promote conventional cigarettes in the past, such as targeting teenagers with special promotions and flavoring their products.
Seriously? No responsible companies – especially the majors – let their products be sold to teenagers at all, and that is in most states in any case (assuming we are referring to minor teenagers, which is obviously the intention of this passage). Thus they obviously do not give them special promotions. And the majors have a really lousy flavor selection. But yes they do flavor their products — basically all e-cigarettes are flavored with something — and since no product with any flavor whatsoever is ever sold to adults, this must be about the teenagers. They go on to cite their own new article in which their reporter was duped into reporting the “experiences” of a “teenager” who was actually a hoax.
Naturally, Newtboar call for FDA to “ban flavors and packaging designed to appeal to youngsters”. (Ok, that one may be an even better shibboleth: “Get off my lawn, you youngsters!”) I wonder what they would say if asked the obvious follow-up question – which would have to come from a blogger, since the NYT staff do not seem to understand the concept of challenging assertions with follow-ups – what exactly defines something as being designed to appeal to teenagers? The answer, no doubt, would translate into “anything that is designed to appeal to anyone.”
They then switch back to talking about smokeless tobacco, in the context of Swedish Match’s MRTP application. They cherrypick a few alarmist statements with “some studies have linked snus with….” Um, yeah. Do you think they understand that if you do a bunch of quantitative studies of something, some will show an association and some will not, which is why you pay attention to the entire body of evidence, not individual studies? (Hint: read the NYT’s health reporting and you will have your answer.) They, of course, conclude – based on their great expertise as political reporters – that FDA should not approve the MRTP application. I look forward to their opinion on how to interpret the latest data coming from CERN.
The single bit that they got partially right was back when they were talking about the latest CDC numbers:
Some experts say the positive news is that the percentage of high school students who smoke traditional cigarettes dropped sharply last year, to 9.2 percent, and they attribute this trend to e-cigarette use. But the decrease in student smoking began before the rapid rise in e-cigarette use and was caused mostly by factors like higher taxes and public service campaigns that highlighted the ghastly effects of smoking, according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, the C.D.C. director.
The are right to question the claim that e-cigarette use has caused the decrease. Of course, they do not question the assertion of serial liar Frieden that e-cigarettes are not causing any of the decrease. The fact is that both of these claims are equally unsupported by the data — it is just not possible to tease out the effect. Our side does not need to implicitly endorse the junk science games of the ANTZ with unsupportable claims like that. We have legitimate claims available. We do not have to pretend this is evidence that e-cigarettes are reducing teen smoking when we can say that most teenage e-cigarette use is concentrated among smokers; the latter is correct and delivers the same message. Similarly, we do not have to pretend that these countervailing trends are evidence there is no gateway effect (which does not follow at all) when we can simply point out there is no evidence of such an effect and simply no reason to ever expect it.
The real criticism of the CDC reporting, which Newtboar conveniently overlook, is the completely downplaying of the record low smoking numbers. For the first time ever, one of the Health People 20xx tobacco use goals has actually been met, with teen smoking rates now below the target for the Healthy People 2020 target (h/t JG). You would never know that if you just listened to the government (and editorial page) media blitz. Why? Because success does not benefit the business model of either the popular press or anti-tobacco operations. The former, of course, are best at selling fear and alarm; people looking for something better have long since abandoned the corporate media. The latter depend on smoking for their salaries; if smoking decreases to the point that it is clearly not The Absolute Worst Thing In The World!!!!, they are out of business. So don’t expect any respite in their war on effective smoking cessation methods.
To me,the last point about the latter depending on Smoking for their living,even very existence is the most poignant!It is why we keep getting all this bovine excrement thrown at us time after time.One can only hope as time goes by that the kitty that pays them now will not do so in the future when eventually big tobacco realise they aren’t going to win.The shareholders of these companies can’t rubber-stamp these actions for ever❗
This has little to do with “big tobacco” (other than they make the products which the government taxes and the donation-spongers exploit to the their none). The majors’ activism is mostly pro-THR — not entirely, obviously, but mostly. The money funding anti-THR (and creating incentives for it, as noted) comes from the people, in the form of tobacco taxes, government grants, and misguided donations. It is those that need to dry up, which will happen when people stop buying that Absolute Worst Thing rhetoric.
Great post, thanks!
What the teen data are concerned, I don’t think they are completely uninformative about the direction of gateways. They don’t tell us much new about gateways, but they are in line with what we already know from observing the general vaping population (little interest among nonsmokers, vaping seemingly displacing smoking, dual use common). Some have interpreted that as indication that there is no gateway effect. You are right that there is no clear evidence for that in the data (the survey didn’t ask questions about sequence or causation). But using Bayes’ rule, even without the exact probabilities, I think we can say a little bit more than that. Just look at this tale.
You are in a forest in North America. In the woods you see something moving. All you can tell is that it is a big hairy animal, nothing else. So ist it a bear or a bigfoot? What do you know?
You know that there are bears in these woods. You have no idea how many and what is the exact probability of spotting one, but people have seen them frequently, they have had dramatic encounters with them, they are well-documented. So they are real and apparently fairly common.
Bigfoots are, so far, only hypothetical. Not a single one has ever been seen or documented. So you know that, while you can’t rule out their existence (because you can’t prove a negative), you can infer that if they exist, they must be rare. Millions of bigfoots just couldn’t hide that well. You can also infer that there are, almost certainly, more bears than bigfoots in the forest.
So even if all you know from your observation is that it is a big hairy animal, you can confidently infer (conditional probability) that it is overwhelmingly more likely a bear than a bigfoot.
Of course, this logic is lost on people who deny the reality of bears (“anecdotes”, “placebo”) and feverishly believe in bigfoots. They could never be convinced that spotting something big and hairy in the woods could NOT be clear evidence for the existence of bigfoots.
The gateway effect is the bigfoot of the tobacco control world. Everybody in their community seems to be utterly convinced that it is real, but no-one has ever seen it happening. There are now tens of millions of vapers in the world and still not a single case of a single person being gatewayed into smoking through ecigs is known. If they believe that anecdotes are weak evidence, shouldn’t it get them thinking that they have failed to produce the weakest form of evidence, a single anecdote?
In the real world, we have thousands and thousands of observations in support of hypothesis A (smoking causes vaping; the bears) and not a single observation in support of hypothesis B (vaping causes smoking; the bigfoots). So if I see a data set with observations that could support both hypothesis A and B, I am not completely agnostic about what is more likely to be true. What I can definitely say is that those who see evidence for the gateway effect in the US teen data are not only doing junk science, they are actually in the same scientific league as ancient astronaut theorists and other, well, excentrics.
You are right that the failure for them to produce even a single example of a self-identified gateway case make their claims unscientific. That is a minimum observation for them to be plausible. I explore this in my paper, which as far as I know is the only serious attempt to address the gateway claim in about a decade http://ep-ology.com/2015/03/11/working-paper-phillips-gateway-effects-why-the-cited-evidence-does-not-support-their-existence-for-low-risk-tobacco-products-and-what-evidence-would/ Note that a self-identified gateway case would not actually be as compelling as a self-identified THR case, for reasons I explain, but the lack of one is sufficient to say that there is no evidence a gateway has ever happened.
This can be stated generally, because no matter what version of the gateway claim is being made (see below), it is still true.
However, that still does not mean that the population prevalence data is counter-evidence. Part of the problem is that the ANTZ have tricked people (including their opponents) into believing that you can scientifically analyze the gateway claim without quantification. (Again, more about that in the paper.) The claim is meaningless when stated without quantification, which is another reason to dismiss the usual ANTZ rhetoric as anti-science — they are not actually making a meaningful scientific claim. Without a meaningful scientific claim, there is nothing to test with the data. Since they never construct one, someone wanting to apply the evidence to the claim has to do that themselves (and it is a scientific fail on their part if they don’t).
The gateway hypothesis in question might be, to take an extreme, for the population of everyone who is not a smoker or otherwise destined to become one (those at risk of being gateway cases), trying an e-cigarette causes a 90% chance you will become a smoker in a month. Now that would be detectable in the population prevalence data. But if the hypothesis were that it were only 1%, there would still be a gateway effect, but it would be way down in the noise given the relatively small numbers involved. Moreover, if it were “causes them to become a smoker five years after becoming a vaper” then even if you had perfect data and half of all would-be-never-smokers took up vaping, there would have been basically no impact on the population data so far, and so nothing to detect.
And, of course, the data is far from noiseless. There are many other things happening, so anyone can make up a story, as Frieden did. The point is that if someone wants to specify a particular version of the gateway hypothesis and parse it against the population prevalence data to say “if that were true, it would have caused X movement in direction Y” they can. They can even say “it is implausible that that contribution occurred because the net total movement was Z”, but that is a much stronger claim. But to simply say that the population data is evidence that there is no gateway is just as wrong as saying that an association among product usage is evidence there is a gateway — both are junk science.
Carl, I apologize if you’ve covered this before and I’ve simply overlooked it during my travels through your archives, but there’s one fallacy that is central to pretty much every argument the ANTZ like to spew forth (the “gateway” theory, for example, relies quite heavily on it), but it seems like few people, even on our side, bother calling them out on it, even though their entire rhetorical ponzi scheme pretty much collapses without it.
I’m talking about the assertion, which seems to have reached the level of dogma/orthodoxy among the ANTZ true believers, that any alternative tobacco/nicotine product will magically “lead to smoking” if the public is allowed to hear accurate information about it. When you get right down to it, pretty much every imagined worst-case scenario you hear from the ANTZ leadership is based on it. The thinking appears to go something like “If you tell people that any tobacco/nicotine product is harmless or lower risk, every impressionable youth in the country will immediately start using it. Within a matter of days, they will be hopelessly addicted to the Devil Nicotine, unable to control their own actions, and will begin seeking out any and all avenues for a stronger nicotine hit, because this is now the only thing that matters in their lives. Before you know it, the youth smoking rate will be 4 billion percent.”
Now, in practical terms, I think this silliness probably gets filed in the “Things we aren’t stupid enough to actually believe, but we keep saying because people let us get away with it” drawer. But in a very real and illustrative way, I think it underscores some of the worst tendencies of professional ANTZ:
1) As none of them have ever been smokers themselves, they don’t have the faintest idea how a smoking habit actually works (much less that people might actually derive pleasure from smoking);
2) Due to #1, we get the pathological ANTZ inability to view smokers/tobacco users as human beings rather than Deranged Nicotine Zombies who care about nothing except getting their next fix.
3) Continuing on the theme from #2, I sometimes do a thought experiment wherein I try to imagine how nicotine and nicotine users appear when viewed through the prism of ANTZ activist lunacy. The way some of these people talk about nicotine, you’d think it was the most mystically all-powerful entity in the entire universe, capable of making anyone do pretty much anything once they’ve had one taste of it.
Woops, sorry for prattling on. Was just wondering if you’d ever devoted a blog post to that subject, or if you had any inclination to do so in the future. In either event, I would very much enjoy reading it.
Well I have covered in my papers on the topic (including the recent one) and mentioned in a few posts what I think is the key rebuttal on the point: The logic of what they are saying is that someone who preferred abstinence to smoking and thus did not smoke (and thus was at risk of becoming a gateway case; if she smoked, she could not become one), tries/learns/whatever in a way that improves her opinion of a low-risk alternative, which causes here to prefer that over abstinence, and then for some magical reason this causes her to elevate her least preferred option (smoking) above both abstinence and the new alternative. Huh???? All you have to do is spell it out like that, and it immediately becomes absurd. It is even more absurd when the claim is about learning something positive about the alternative, rather than merely “getting hooked” on it.
No one but I seems to make that argument, even though it is pretty clearly the slam-dunk rebuttal to gateway claims. Instead they make junk claims like I cited in the post. I dunno, maybe it is too many words for them.
You are right that presumably the implicit answer in the unthinking ANTZ brains to why someone would take that last absurd step on the path is something about losing all control, sensibility, etc. It is useful to force them to speak that absurdity out loud by challenging them with the “why?” of the gateway claim in addition to the “name one case!” challenge. The bullshit about countervailing population prevalences is not only scientifically wrong, but is lousy rhetoric because it does not put them on the spot like that.
Earlier generations of anti-tobacco people include a lot of — perhaps mostly — ex-smokers, but I think you are right that they are being crowded out by never-smokers now. The ex-smokers were rather more grounded in reality, though they did often suffer from the “I quit, and therefore everyone else must be able to do exactly what I did” derangement. And, yes, they are mostly people who despise and hate product users. Watch for my upcoming post on lung cancer.
You have no doubt noticed me referring to their demonic possession theory of smoking/nicotine. Mostly I am referring to the claims that their behavior follows decidedly anti-economic patterns, as in the gateway story above or the claim that most people who smoke really want to quit even though they are still doing it. But it can be extended to the the demons being all-powerful. It is pretty clear that they think of nicotine as some kind of evil spirit when they start freaking out about a few molecules of it depositing on surfaces.
Some of your assertions look a bit too concrete for the field of human sciences and especially public health (or, the health of the public, as we will probably have to call it now that the term ‘public health’ basically equals ‘BS promoted for financial reasons by professional liars’). For example you state “there is not a single example of…” or similar, in several cases where there are rare examples that have no real significance. People do see and film ‘bigfoots’ but that doesn’t mean these are genuine sightings – and where we do have some DNA, it turns out to be something else. People do, rarely, become dependent on NRT gum; but such rarity has no clinical significance. People do, rarely, become dependent on carrot juice (there are a couple of cases on record) but no reasonable person would describe carrots or their juice as having potential for dependence since the numbers are too low. People will, uncommonly, become dependent on ecigs, having never smoked or consumed tobacco in any form and despite the fact nicotine has never been demonstrated to show any potential for dependence for non-consumers of tobacco; but such instances will have no clinical significance due to the scale.
So it is probably better not to use ‘never’ or ‘cannot’ or ‘impossible’ for anything in this area (unless of course it really has been demonstrated to be impossible). This makes commentaries much more difficult – but they will be more accurate as a result. As a poor, semi-educated, semi-literate pundit I have had to address this issue head-on, because of the powerful attraction and ease of use of absolutes of this kind, and their justifiable criticism by scientists. It’s better not to be too rigid and precise, as nothing really is in this area.
Ok, well, without rereading everything I cannot say I did not goof somewhere. But to generally answer…. Human science can be concrete, they are just complicated. My usual use of “there are no examples” refer to the gateway claims, where I am pretty sure I would know if those touting the claim had pointed to a single case study. That is not the same as saying “it has never happened”, which would obviously be a mistake to claim, but it does call into question the claims. You can never claim something has never happened. But you can say that there is no affirmative evidence available that shows it has ever happened. Similarly, I say that there are no examples of someone becoming addicted to ecigs. That is a bit of a cheap shot, in that it also takes advantage of the fact that anyone claiming a siting would have to define “addicted”, but the same principle also applies. (Note that there is little doubt that you can become dependent on something by getting your body highly used to it, but “addiction” is supposed to mean something more than that.) You cannot say “there is no evidence that bigfoots exist” because there are pictures. You can say that they are not convincing, of course. This is different — there is not even a picture.
In short, you cannot say “such a case never exists” about most — perhaps even all — epidemiologic claims (is it possible that carrot juice and bigfoot fumes ever caused someone to get cancer? yes, it is possible). But you can say there is no convincing evidence of it occurring, even once, or for some of these claims, there has not even been identification of a candidate case.
Is it a breach of ethics if we use NYTrons to calculate the score of an NYT editorial, or should we just break it down into the equivalent number of Lenos and Stantonites?
Aside from pointing out most teens experimenting don’t use nicotine, I like to tell these Alarmed stories that nobody, of any age, not already addicted to nicotine likes how nicotine tastes. So very unlikely nonsmokers would want nicotine in their e liquid.
Off topic, but rather amusing
Every little barrier to adult access is going to mean that one or ten or a hundred people who would have quit smoking don’t quit smoking and that’s going to kill people,” Carl Phillips, scientific director for the retailer trade group Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, told the panel.
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For the sake of humanity I still cannot understand how this leftist campaign against nicotine is based more in bigotry rather than science. It’s the same bullshit fueling the SJW crap as well, but I digress (I can be a misogynistic nicotine junkie, and so can you, at least in their eyes).
I offer no apologies for calling it leftist. I have successfully quit the partisan political nonsense for a decade (I’m a former authentic Democrat of nine years until I truly noticed how spineless they were as an activist). I soaked my brain in Mother Jones, The Nation and Bartcop during that time. I finally got burned out on the nonsense of two-party politics a decade ago because these self-proclaimed forces for “change” are so ineffectual against true evil. I can assure you that lefties hate having their sacred cow of nicotine prohibition challenged for, as Bartcop once stated, hate is all they have.
But what made me abstain permanently from being a Degenerat any more was how the irony of their anti-nicotine bigotry kicked in with no whiff of science involved.
And these spineless simpletons want to bring science back into policymaking? A party that squeed in glee as the Mythbusters got to speak with Obama and yet has proven itself inept when it comes down to what’s in E-cigs even with an ingredient list?
Rapethuglicans hate me because I’m secular. Degenerats hate me because I enjoy nicotine. I can do without both factions because I’m bi-directionally literate and for personal freedom and the very idea of Informed Consent. I don’t need any of their nannying.
Now I know why most people don’t vote. It doesn’t take a South Park sketch to illustrate that. But it helps, at least.
But it goes to show: These lefties know that if you burn anything it’ll smoke! This is as far as their “science” has gone! No wonder they believe that vaping is smoking! None of these leftist anti-smokers will ever hook up the kit and try it anyway so they’ll never know what vaping is other than it “looks” like smoke upon exhalation (it’s never “on” all the time, killing their sidestream “smoke” argument)!
The only apology I offer is to everyone here reading this if this comment gets approved. Oh, how my former political party I was once an activist for has fallen.
And yes, I read EP-ology too. ;-)
— Mark B.
Note to all readers: The partisan politics of THR is seldom on-topic for posts at this blog, but this one is close enough that I will allow it. However, if you are going to go that direction, please try to keep it crisp and substantive. That is in your own interest too — it really never makes your points more convincing to play name gates and such.
Mark, well, since you did your homework ;-) you know I am basically a former democrat over this issue (and to a lesser extent one or two others I also feel strongly about). [Needless to say, this is first person singular. Obviously CASAA is completely nonpartisan by design and corporate status.] Though that does not mean I would want the part of dismantling the ACA, Medicare, Social Security, and banking regulation to gain the presidency. But the funny thing is that this issue (and, it happens, the second important one on my list) consist of the Democrats’ doctrinaire position looks more like a traditional Republican position. It is an anomaly and it is not “leftist” in any normal sense of the term. (It also helps to keep in mind that the Democratic party is center-right by most measures, not leftist.)
The current right-left policy spectrum in the USA right now basically lines up along “preserving or increasing the concentration of power in the hands of the usual oligarchs -vs- distributing rights/power (and the resources that it takes to make rights meaningful) to those who are not in power”. Krugman did a nice job of exploring this recently: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/rand-paul-and-the-empty-box/?_r=0 Anti-THR is all about taking away rights of the individuals in favor of the preferences of oligarchs. The latter, in this case, are not the bankers, Big Energy, the military-industrial complex, et al., but rather Big NGO, government official, and Big Media. But these are still people in power, trying to preserve the power of themselves and their organizations, and who are definitely more at home talking to bankers and corporate executives than they are to the people. They are far, far more like the plutocrats than they are like the people.
American history demonstrates pretty unambiguously that when “public health” initiatives are based on moral value judgements instead of scientific data, they fail spectacularly and quite often have the opposite of the intended effect. And it makes no difference which of our two institutionalized political factions is doing the promotion.
Whenever I hear someone trying to make vaping into a partisan issue (something that will never benefit our cause and which we must avoid under all circumstances), I like to point out that certain elements of the donkey party are doing with vaping the exact same thing that certain elements of the elephant party did with abstinence-only “sex education”; i.e. trying to enshrine a moral value judgement as the law of the land, without a second thought to what the real-world implications would actually be. In either case, you’re left with a doomed policy that doesn’t improve the health of a single person, and causes astronomically more harm than it ameliorates.
Bureaucracies much prefer speaking with other bureaucracies , and they prefer ‘solutions’ that require bigger desks (and lots of conferences and travel expenses) . ANTZ is both a Administration (of regulation) and a ‘public’ lobby group for, more regulation. A economist friend once told me that a American economist by the name of Niskanen even wrote a economic law to describe bureaucracies natural attraction to reverse economies of scale.
BTW Just curious – Where does : pragmatic, community minded, free trade liberal sit, in the American political spectrum?
The ANTZ mob as a group, are simultaneously ; advocates (and researchers) for more regulation, paid administrators (and paid researchers ) and representatives of the public ‘good’.
i.e They are in a position that is a classic example of what Niskanen called the “budget maximizing bureaucrat”.
Ever increasing costs for ever diminishing marginal benefit – reverse economies of scale- is exactly what their campaign to regulate-prohibit e-cigs is all about.
The fable of the scorpion and the frog comes to mind; “I could not help myself. It is my nature.”
The ‘problem’ with e-cigs is exactly that they are cost efficient -self-funding.
Sorry, John, I know you asked me to delete your accidental duplicate response (note to others: it was the case we all experience of a web-form being sent and apparently not being sent, so he tried again) but I just really liked my answer to the first version too much. But I like this version for content better. :-)
The budget maximizing urge definitely exists (though I cannot imagine why — I find life so much happier when I have just enough budget to immerse yourself in one project at a time). The scorpion is reasonably apt, though unlike that story, these guys are doomed if the frog makes it across the river, so they have to take their chances trying to kill it. But it does bring up a point about left-right politics that does make anti-THR more genuinely fit the left (as defined as “those of the American tribe that we call the left” rather than trying to find a more technical definition). Both side of that are inclined to use government to enforce their moral precepts, and the right generally more so (thus anti-THR seeming more right than left). But those on the left are more inclined to blindly believe that big government can genuinely solve complicated problems. Sometimes it can, of course (private markets, and local/minimalist government, are hopeless at providing road networks or proper health insurance). But often it makes things worse, something that tribe is predisposed to deny.
I had a friend who had been attacked and blacklisted by McCarthy (literally), but remained a steadfast paleo-liberal in his area of advocacy (related to education, making it mostly a matter of big government vs local government) and so believed that more nationalization would solve the problems. Even after the GWB administration pulled such a coup and just made things worse (by his measures), he still put his faith in some philosopher king taking over and fixing everything.