by Carl V Phillips
This is completely trivial compared to the vast amount of genuinely threatening anti-THR that is out there. But it is funny — too funny to pass up. This paper was recently published. It seems that The Journal of Public Health Policy is a bit hard to access (good news in itself, really) and I am certainly not going to pay for a download. But we have the abstract, and for papers like this the abstract is really all you can stand to read anyway. It begins:
VapeCons: E-cigarette user conventions.
Rebecca Williams, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of North Carolina
E-cigarette ‘vaping conventions’ provide a venue for user social networking, parties, and ‘try before you buy’ access to a wide range of e-cigarette products. This study identifies and describes vaping conventions, raising awareness of this potentially problematic practice.
If you are not laughing already, it is only because you have become too used to the ongoing self-satire that is “public health” “research”.
The advantage of only reading the abstract is that I can speculate about the body of the paper. I am going to go with:
This sect is probably the fastest growing religion in world. They call themselves “vapyrs,” which is believed to a North American variant on the gothic “vampyre.”
For these ritual gatherings, they adorn their bodies with ink and metallic object and don the ceremonial black garb. Those vying for alpha male status can be identified by their lack of sleeves. Custom garments commemorating the particular gathering or displaying various tribal affiliations are available for barter among the participants.
The wealth of the sect is evident from their large collection of paraphernalia and their very well-nourished appearance. While the gatherings give the appearance of a potlatch, the gifting is limited to ritual exchanges of saliva and a few drops of the ceremonial “eely quid” that unites the sect. Beyond that, there appears to be a fully-functioning exchange economy for goods. Psychoactive substances are integral to the vapyrs’ ceremonial gatherings. This is not limited to the eely quid that forms the core of the ceremony; large quantities of alcohol and cannabis are consumed during the late-night phase.
Rank in the religious hierarchy is defined based on the possession of ritual paraphernalia. The purely ceremonial role of these objects at these gatherings is evident from the accumulation of numerous seemingly identical objects by individuals. The subtle differences apparently play a yet-undocumented role in vapyr rituals. It widely believed that there is a larger population of other sect members — those who “pass” for members of mainstream society — who use these objects only for utilitarian purposes (though their existence has never been reported in the peer-reviewed literature, and thus must be considered speculative). If this is true, it would suggest that there is a priestly caste who are the only sect members we observe at these gatherings, and that they alone possess the ceremonial objects.
Though no children are ever observed at these gatherings, many of the ceremonial objects are apparently colored and flavored to attract children. This fuels speculation that this sect perpetuates itself by recruiting young people in the manner of their namesakes. Many have dismissed this as the typical response of the dominant culture toward outsiders, such as Jews or immigrants. But in this case, the speculation is backed by a UCSF study that found that missing persons cases around VapeCons were elevated above baseline almost 60% of the time. (Some have suggested that the methodology, which defined a different time and space for “around” for each observation, and failed to report what they used as a baseline, is suspect. The authors have defended their research on the basis that they followed standard accepted practice in their field.)
Recently these ceremonies have changed in tenor. While once they focused on socialization and education, they seem to now to be primarily about spectacle. It has been suggested that this is motivated by the sect’s prediction of an impending apocalypse, to be brought about by Seeteepee, a figure in the vapyr religion that is best described as a malevolent demon who is immune to reason. An alternative hypothesis for the trend is the common cultural tendency to convert the sacred into profane idolatry in order to survive contact with the dominant modern commercial culture. Our research on these competing explanations revealed….
I threw in that last bit because it would be a genuinely interesting study of cultural trends. Too bad no one does genuinely interesting studies in this area. I have a feeling the author is not even familiar with the word “hypothesis”, let alone theories of cultural or economic evolution.
More seriously, the vibe of this and almost all “public health” research on actual humanity is like they are conducting ethology, studying something so foreign to them that they cannot see it as “someone mostly like me, who is merely acting on preferences and in circumstances that differ from mine.” I have pointed out before that the attitude of “public health” toward tobacco product users, and many others that they study, is that of Victorian “anthropologists”, who were basically just looking for amusement and excuses to feel superior to other cultures, justifications for the Europeans to colonize and basically enslave them. This is a good example of that attitude. Treating cultural groups as inferiors, to be studied from on-high without attempting to engage with them and understand their own self-perceptions, is considered grossly unethical in modern social science. It is difficult to imagine anyone getting away with this in anthropology or sociology, but in public health it is SOP.
Conventions were identified via Google searches in April and May 2014 and August 2015. Details captured included location, sponsors, admission cost, event features, and promotions.
Wait, what? No, I did not leave anything out there. This “study” of vaping conventions is actually a study of the content of the splash pages inviting people to attend them. Well, so much for the text I offered above. Williams did not get close enough to actually observing what she claimed to be studying to learn that much.
41 distinct organizations have planned 90 vaping conventions in 37 different locations since 2010. Conventions promoted access to a wide range of product vendors, seminars, social interactions with other users, parties, gifts, vaping contests, and other events. E-cigarette use at conventions was encouraged.
Um, no, moron. You found webpages for 90 vaping conventions. This may come as a shock to those who dwell under rocks, but webpages announcing events do not necessarily still exist years after the event. Yes, some of them remain as archives about the event or abandoned pages, but many are gone. In case this general principle was not sufficiently obvious, anyone who actually knows something about vaping conventions knows that there have been a lot more than 90 of them in 37 locations since 2010.
And — oh my god! — e-cigarette use at e-cigarette conventions was encouraged? Who would have thought? Actually, wait, why would anyone make an effort to encourage use of e-cigarettes? Seems kind of redundant. Presumably what she found were statements that vendors would be letting attendees try their liquids and assurances that vaping will be allowed on the premises. I doubt there was actually a single instance where vaping was actually encouraged, rather than the option being presented. But that is how “public health” people think: In their world, there is only discourage and encourage (which they really would prefer be forbid and mandate, but they cannot always get that). They seem unaware of the existence of “make an opportunity available to people and let them choose to take it if they want.”
Vaping conventions promote e-cigarette use and social norms without public health having a voice to educate attendees about negative consequences of use. Future research should focus on the effects of attending these conventions on attendees and on indoor air quality in vapor-filled convention rooms.
Ah, there is the payload. In case you missed it, the reasoning here was: “I have just learned that vaper conventions exist. Though I did nothing to actually ascertain this, I assume that there are no anti-ecig propagandists present at them. Therefore, there should be. Also, though nothing I observed has anything to do with air quality, it also follows that this should be researched.” I am not even sure that rises to the level of being a logical fallacy. WTF is with these “public health” people? Are they — authors, journal editors, journal reviewers — seriously unaware that “every personal opinion the author pulls out her ass about the way the world should be run, that happens to be related to the general subject matter” is not actually a conclusion from a research study?
Williams’s suggestion that “public health” people should be present to “educate” consumers is not much different from Saudi Arabia’s current bid to gain a seat on the UN Commission on Women, or the fact that Iran already has a seat on that commission. Yes, those countries have a strong interest in being part of the conversation due to their very strong views on the subject — they would dearly like to be able to “educate” the rest of the world about their opinions. I trust I do not need to explain why this is the very reason they should not be allowed anywhere near the process.
On the other hand, I would love to see an implementation of “public health having a voice to educate attendees about negative consequences”. In fact, if anyone knows if Ms. Williams or her ilk plan to show up at a vaping convention to “educate” people, please let me know. I would love to watch that in action. I am sure it would generate a far better cultural anthropology study than they will ever conduct.