Thursday 3 March 2016

A Vapid Anti-Vaper Writes

Following on from yesterday's article about vapid anti-vapers (the term was stolen from an admirable editorial in The Times on Tuesday), you just knew it wouldn't take long until the point being made by The Times was proven in real life.

To explain, let me point you to an article by Carl Phillips where he accurately describes the difference between tobacco industry science and tobacco control industry junk science. Making a good call by comparing 'public health' pronouncements with the parody Twitter account @DPRK_News, he highlights an accurate observation.
The @DPRK_News comedy includes treating one-off problems from the news of the day as being representative of all life in Western societies. “Public health” treats transgressions by cigarette companies that occurred two generations ago, by no one who is still active today, as if they have a bearing on the quality of current research. What makes @DPRK_News particularly funny, more so than if similar jokes came from a mock Mother Jones or Rush Limbaugh feed, is the contrast between the supposed Western problem and the reality of North Korea, which is worse by most any measure. The parallel with the accusations from “public health” should be clear: A huge portion of “public health” research is utter junk science, blatantly tortured to serve their special-interest political goals, while research done by the tobacco companies is honest and consistently high quality, and has been for a few decades.
This is true. By way of example, just have a look at the report BAT released today about innovations in tobacco harm reduction here. The striking thing about it is that it is written by people with degrees in proper science such as molecular virology, medical oncology, molecular cell medicine and polymer chemistry. Not, you notice, people trained in sociology, marketing and fixing aeroplanes like you'll find in the parasitic and counterproductive tobacco control industry.

Phillips goes on to suggest a spectrum of scientific credibility, on tobacco harm reduction specifically but can be extended to tobacco too, which - although probably a revelation to most of the public who like to believe in QI-style myths - makes perfect sense if you have the wherewithal to think through the motivations at play.
If you were doing to do an ad hominem ranking of the probability that a research study conclusion is overstated or out-and-out wrong, it would be: major tobacco company at the low end (they wouldn’t dare); e-cigarette company or advocates in between (they have truth on their side and are truth-seeking, but have less to lose and more to gain from pushing beyond what is really solid, and are unlikely to get called out for it); and “public health” people worst by far (their discipline is inherently dishonest, so they have absolutely nothing to lose from lying, and they know the truth is not on their side).
Quite. The proof of this is that you will never see tobacco controllers trying to replicate results of industry science, because they know it is sound (they also lack the required skillset, being sociologists and mechanics etc). Instead, they will always, but always, just scream that it is performed by tobacco companies so should be ignored entirely, and strive to make sure it isn't published anywhere.

So how do we test this hypothesis?

Well, as Phillips was publishing his article, the very scenario was playing itself out in the letters page of The Times. First up is career anti-smoker Mike Daube, a "Professor of health policy" who effectively banned the classic opera Carmen because it is set in a tobacco factory, and then lied about it.

Dropping words in there such as "much debate", "cautious", and "potential harmful", Daube is employing exactly the same 'merchants of doubt' tactics his profession claims were appalling when long-dead tobacco industry execs did the same. In fact, all the doubts and scare stories about e-cigs have been created by him and his charlatan colleagues, and there is no credible science behind any of them. Daube's is a lucrative industry which has long since forgotten what science actually is.

I'm sure I don't have to also remind you that the tobacco industry is not "in the forefront" of anything to do with vaping, in fact they are miles behind the independent sector on e-cigs and their trade accounts for only a small fraction of the market, but Daube doesn't concern himself with that. His only motivation - stung as he is by being called, rightly, a "vapid anti-vaper" - is to ignore any science and instead hark back to decades old actions by tobacco companies to try to pretend e-cigs are some kind of nefarious plot. It doesn't matter that his scare stories are not backed by any evidence whatsoever, and he doesn't even bother - nor has his kind ever - to try to provide real science to justify his stance. Nope, ad hominem all the way.

Exhibit B is on the same page, by the guy who is in charge of all those scientists we spoke about earlier.

As Phillips points out, this is in keeping with how industry operates, and so far removed from tobacco control's cartoon portrayal of tobacco companies that Daube should be embarrassed to raise his head above the parapet and write such vapid nonsense.
Of course they are researching products in their space, along with associated behaviors and health effects, with an expectation that it will help them be more successful in the future — help the individual company, that is, not the mythical unitary “the tobacco industry” the public health people seem to think exists.
BAT are employing specialist scientists not to collude with their competitors and fit in with tobacco control's fantasies, but instead to stay relevant and continue selling stuff when the market is shifting towards harm reduced products. It's not rocket science but vapid anti-vapers - like Daube has self-identified himself as being by writing such a laughable letter - understand business less than they understand science, which is quite astounding considering they don't even have the first clue about the latter.

One day this will be something that is understood widely, but in the meantime we will have to continue to suffer comprehensively stupid old farts like Daube exposing themselves as vapid anti-vapers in response to an article entitled "Vapid Anti-Vapers". Congrats to The Times for helping that along with such an irresistible carrot to mud-hurling lunatics like Daube.

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