New “public health” panic: Ecig users practice freedom of association without proper supervision!

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.

28 responses to “New “public health” panic: Ecig users practice freedom of association without proper supervision!

  1. LOL!
    That sure would be fun.
    Hear them recite their propaganda bits and have their threadbare intellectual cloth exposed and shredded by vapers with knowledge. To see them hoisted by their own petard. And leaving abruptly. Frustrated and confused. Followed by the laughter of those they so self-righteously set out to “educate”.
    If that ever happens, I sure hope somebody will record and share it.

  2. Maybe she will show up at VaperCon in Richmond next week. That’s not a very long trip from North Carolina.

  3. I think it’s safe to say that the author if this article – – has produced a more useful and perhaps scientific piece than Ms. Williams. Also worth noting the authors’ seemingly effortless full disclosure of her bias.

  4. Perhaps she’ll bring a couple of grad students to throw bottles of eliquid to the crowd while she speaks. That’s what’s typically required to get a crowd of vapers to stand still for education. Or reeducation.

  5. We should send an invitation to of every vape-fest-convention-meet on this planet in order for her to attend and “educate” us. Fun guarantied.

  6. Thomas Kirsop (MadMeathead)

    I pictured more of a “Vapers In The Mist” type observational study. The young scientist slowly creeping around booths trying to be unobtrusive, dropping to all fours with a hand raised in duplication when confronted by large clouds. Lots of low toned BBC narration going on in the background.

  7. They could try throwing out patches and little bottle of Chantix to get their crowd!

  8. “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,…”

    Exactly. Somehow I just get the feeling that they just don’t approve of the “counter” culture and the freedom of thought and association (like the title of this post points out) that comes along with choosing to be “different” from the (forced) homogenized “norm”.

  9. Just another day in human history, friend. We’ve had thousands of years to come to our senses, yet 99.99% percent of that history is utterly deplorable.

  10. All thoughtful and considerate convention promoters should provide a centrally-placed stand for the Public Health industry. Suitable organisations and individuals should be invited to attend, and invitations would be issued according to frequency of publication in respected journals such as The Lancet, NEJM and so forth.

    This would improve the balance of the events and provide a much needed counterpoint to the one-sided promotion of untested consumer products currently on offer.

  11. Almost 5 years ago, I finally quit smoking thanks to vaping and my health has obviously improved. After all this time, I’m sick and tired of people who seem to come directly out of the Middle Ages telling me what is good, what I should do, how I have to behave in a way that no one ever bothered so much while I smoked. They try to force us out of vaping in a totally manic way, resorting to the law as that’s what’s happening worldwide right now. Yes, I’m not a kid and I can clearly remember (that was not so long ago, in fact) when most people smoked mostly everywhere. Now, with something as innocuous as ecigs, that has helped so many smokers quit and feel much better, they can’t keep their mouths shut. Frankly, I’m tired of humans and it’s not some substance in e-liquids that makes me feel that way, I’d just like to be left alone.

  12. “eely quid” LOL! Love it! Carl, you have a classic “Beautiful Mind”!

    One place I’d differ: I think it’s just fine for Iran and perhaps even Saudi Arabia to have input into the UN Commission on Women. Their presentations might go a long way toward revealing to a wider audience just what they’re all about in that area.

    And I’d probably agree with Chris Price — for the same reason — as long as all the antismoking convention promoters provided a centrally-placed stand at their own conventions for Free Choice advocates who were invited to attend, with invitations issued according to frequency of publication in the only “journals” that Free Choice folks have been given funding for: Internet web pages and newspaper comment areas.

    – MJM

  13. I absolutely love Ms. Williams choice of words. She doesn’t merely want to offer an opposing point of view, or to be a voice of caution and/or moderation (which is how a normal, reasonable, non-sociopathic person likely would have phrased the proposal). No, these poor stupid bastards obviously require “education.”

    In other words, Ms. Williams views are so sacrosanct, so immutably correct, and so above reproach that they are exempt from any form of scrutiny whatsoever. She is right and you are wrong. If you were afforded the singular privilege of hearing her speak on this topic (because who doesn’t want to hear sanctimonious lectures from the ANTZ shock troops when they go to a vape convention, amirite?), you would walk away more “educated” than you were before, and you might even reconsider being a filthy, pathetic nicotine addict.

  14. What on earth are you talking about Ms. Williams? A totally senseless article.

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  16. Bwaahaaahaa!!!
    And yes, I would also be very interested in seeing those “public health” faschist try to tell their nasty lies, fearmongering and propaganda at a vaping convention! :-))))

  17. No group of like-minded people should be allowed to freely assemble without public health supervision and education. Expect one of them to show up at your wedding and preach to you the dangers of sugary wedding cake. Neo Carrie Nations popping into your tavern, jumping onto the bartop and screaming about the dangers of demon Johnny Walker. And why not the constant din of a loudspeaker blasting across the beach on the dangers of too much sun? Or a constant soundtrack bleating in your motel room graphically warning about diseases from naked sex. So much to do, so little time.

  18. ” 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.”

    This reminds of of Winnie-The-Cough’s “study” that proved thirdhand smoke to be deadly…. when actually all he did was look at a survey of random people’s thoughts about bringing a baby into a room “where people had been smoking.”

    – MJM

  19. I wonder how much it costs to publish a survey that consists of a Google search. Clearly it takes over a year (April 2014-August 2015). During that time frame there were at least two major conventions in Winston-Salem (only 90 miles from Chapel Hill, NC), had any additional information been truly sought.

    I’m ashamed that this was produced by my alma mater (albeit a very different department with no ties at all to my own).

    Carl, as a lay person in the field, I don’t understand… How does this actually get published? “I did a Google search, and I found this, and I think it means this.” I’m completely perplexed. Not to mention, wondering if I went into the wrong line of work…

    • Carl V Phillips

      Sorry for the delayed response. On a blog hiatus. Stuff like this gets published because public health journals are extended political broadsides with a smattering of real science, rather than the other way around as they are perceived. And, yeah, the life of writing stuff is very easy if you just parrot up with a well-funded party line, whether that be “public health” puritanism or producing “economics” that is an excuse to make the rich richer. The only cost is your soul.

  20. I mean, it’s not even pretending to be more than a google search… WTF?

  21. Substitute “gun” anywhere you see e-cig and see how fast this same “research” is seen to be a good thing.

    41 distinct organizations have planned 90 firearms 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, shooting contests, and other events. Firearm use at conventions was encouraged.

    Firearms conventions promote gun 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 cordite-filled convention spaces.

    Do you think the NRA would see this as a bad thing? Would Congress? Yet the exact same words are used to deride vapers for holding trade shows and social gatherings. The information — that firearm enthusiasts would defend as perfectly acceptable behavior — is provided in a way that would have the gun-toting crowd (quite literally) up-in-arms. The same text that would have Congress claiming that these researchers don’t know what they are talking about, describes vaping conventions as somehow sinister, underground, suspicious, and unwholesome. An attitude that the uninformed seem more than willing to accept.

    Rewrite bad vaping press by performing this simple substitution, put it in front of the anti-vaping crowd and see what they have to say about it.

    Firearm ‘gun conventions’ provide a venue for user social networking, parties, and ‘try before you buy’ access to a wide range of firearms-related products. This study identifies and describes gun conventions, raising awareness of this potentially problematic practice.

    Yeah, the Introduction has that last line, doesn’t it? The NRA-types might see that last bit as “problematic”. So should the vaping crowd. Place this abstract — as modified for guns — in front of a politician and ask them what they think about this study. Then drop the bomb on them that it’s really about vaping. Watch the squirming commence.

    But what do I know? I’m just a guy that quit smoking in 2012 thanks to an eGo battery and some dual coil cartomizers.

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