Friday, March 13, 2015

The Complete Blindness of Some E-Cigarette Opponents: Re-Normalization Hypothesis Defies Science and Logic, Ideology Prevents Them from Thinking Straight

In a position statement on electronic cigarettes published by the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dr. Richard Stanwick, its past president, opines that electronic cigarettes are a "gateway" to smoking that will renormalize smoking by "representing smoking as a socially acceptable public practice."

Later in the same statement, Dr. Stanwick complains that "Both the size and value of the e-cigarette industry are expanding rapidly. Currently estimated to be worth more than $2 billion in the United States alone, e-cigarette sales are expected to surpass conventional cigarette sales over the next decade."

Dr. Stanwick goes on to state: "Health advocates have achieved truly historic successes in curbing tobacco use ... through a variety of effective public policy interventions. E-cigarettes have the potential to undermine this framework."

The Rest of the Story

This same argument has been repeated by many groups and advocates that oppose electronic cigarettes. And the rest of the story is that the argument is ridiculous. It makes no sense, is illogical, and is internally inconsistent.

If electronic cigarette sales surpass conventional cigarette sales over the next decade, as Dr. Stanwick seems to predict, then electronic cigarettes will go down in history as the single most effect intervention ever to reduce cigarette smoking. Imagine: a 50% drop in cigarette consumption. That would be an unprecedented public health victory. Never before has any public health or anti-smoking intervention resulted in a smoking reduction of that magnitude.

Moreover, if cigarette sales are cut in half, then smoking will be completely denormalized. Nothing denormalizes smoking more than having very few people smoking.

You can't have it both ways. You can't argue that electronic cigarettes are a huge gateway to smoking that is going to renormalize smoking and at the same time acknowledge that electronic cigarette sales are going to reduce cigarette sales in half over the next decade. The argument makes no sense and is internally inconsistent. If electronic cigarettes are so successful as a public health intervention that they take over half of the overall cigarette market, it will be a tremendous public health victory of historic proportions that will have greatly reduced cigarette use, denormalized smoking, and saved lives.

This story demonstrates that many electronic cigarette opponents have lost the ability to think straight. They are so blinded by ideology that they seem incapable of making a coherent argument. They are talking complete nonsense.

And in fact, I believe that the reason so many e-cigarette opponents are talking such nonsense is that they don't have a leg to stand on. They can't rely on the actual scientific evidence and on coherent arguments because the facts do not support the contention that electronic cigarettes are renormalizing smoking. So they are left with crafting nonsense arguments that fly in the face of their own lack of logic.

The truth is that electronic cigarettes do appear to be a gateway: a gateway away from smoking and towards vaping. This means that electronic cigarettes are denormalizing smoking. The only thing electronic cigarettes may be normalizing is vaping.

The argument that electronic cigarettes are renormalizing smoking makes no sense, is unsupported by evidence, and should be completely abandoned before any more damage is done to the public's health.

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