"It has toxic substances in it"
"We don't know what the long term effects are"
"There is already a decline, so they are not needed"
"They contain formaldehyde"
"They contain antifreeze"
"They are not 100% safe"
"They can cause harm"
"They exist to earn more money to the industry"
And so on. Sound familiar, right?
Obviously these comments are made about vaping, right?
This is the stuff that gets thrown at vaping advocates on a daily basis more or less, so it's obvious what they are talking about, right?
You'd be wrong. These come from the anti-vaccination crowd.
The undercurrent of anti-science that is going on right now is seeping into a lot of areas right now and it seems clear to me that the vehement opposition to electronic cigarettes is an unfortunate symptom of that sort of mindset. Although, it is not clear why certain people manage to endorse electronic cigarettes and still oppose vaccines, as these are essentially different manifestations of the same philosophy that is also the basis for the medical profession and promotion of health in general, harm reduction.
Harm reduction is thought of as a sort of ideology, but the practices and ideas embedded in it are not something novel or new. They have much further reach than that. The basis for promoting HR is quite simply the fact that risk-benefit analysis is an essential part of modern societies, since everything inherently has some level of risk. There is always a consideration of "is this likely to be a net benefit, or in other words are the rewards worth the risk" and a way to reduce those risks while retaining the benefits. This includes things like bicycle helmets, seat belts, condoms, needle exchanges and obviously I think also electronic cigarettes.
While the role of ecigs is very much under disagreement, the basic science is rather clear and sound. Smoke is something societies strive to get rid of by introducing better alternatives, across the board, just not in nicotine use. This is because the health effects of combustion are rather well known and switching to non-combustion options is likely to be a real net benefit, but somehow this doesn't seem to register with the anti-vaping crowd.
This leads me to wonder, why is that?
Well, it seems there's a train of thought behind it that is reminiscent of some arguments I mentioned in my last blog post. Specifically considering this issue, they could be formatted something like this (and PLEASE, do correct me if these are way off base):
1. Nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive
2. Electronic cigarettes have nicotine
3. Therefore electronic cigarettes are highly addictive
1. Exposure to nicotine from cigarettes leads to smoking
2. Electronic cigarettes have nicotine
3. Therefore electronic cigarettes lead to smoking
1. Cigarettes are designed to make nicotine use as highly addictive as possible
2. Electronic cigarettes are designed and have nicotine
3. Therefore electronic cigarettes are designed to be as highly addictive as possible
Now, I'm not aware of anybody who would say these things outright.. But the first one is something very clearly implied in the discourse globally. The second one seems to be a basis for the insistence of gateways. The latter is implied in the accusations of tobacco industry involvement, in the sense that "we can't trust these things".
If you state them out loud though, do they make sense? Are the assumptions of equivocation required plausible?
Do the anti vaccination arguments make sense if you consider the science?
To me, these seem like very classic type 1 observational errors, or false positives. In this sort of case the two razors should likely be at the forefront of thinking:
"Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected"
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence"
Ultimately, does rational opposition to electronic cigarettes even exist at all?