Saturday 3 March 2018

Simon Chapman: Expert Merchant Of Doubt

As the evidence mounts up as to the harmlessness - and even the benefits - of e-cigarettes, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the tiny few denialists still remaining to foretell a future of 'public health' catastrophe as a result of vaping. It might be something to do with the fact that e-cigs have been around for over a decade now and there still hasn't been a single case of death or significant disease, throughout the world, attributable to using vaping equipment as intended.

In Australia, particularly, their backward government is coming under increasing pressure to legalise the use of nicotine in e-cigs while all developed nations around them - most significantly neighbour New Zealand - are realising that the campaign against new nicotine products is mostly vested interest lobbying and hot air.

However, if you're a narcissistic Aussie pensioner who cannot bear to admit you're wrong, the futile struggle still goes on like some Jap soldier still fighting the Second World War. Perhaps sensing that it's inevitable that Australia will have to join the real world and legalise e-cigs with nicotine at some point, Simon Chapman has begun a rearguard action to try to make sure that, if they are, that there will be nowhere to use them ... and his reasoning is hilarious!
Groundhog day as vapers try to talk their way into our smokefree public places 
Over the 30 years between the time we banned smoking in cinemas, buses and trains and when it was finally banned in all public indoor spaces, we saw many truly bizarre attempts to justify its continuation in offices, then in restaurants and finally in the last bastions, pubs and bars.
The last bastion, Simon? Surely that's private homes where mouth-frothing anti-smokers have always demanded that smokers be confined to. Is that campaign on hold now then?
Tobacco industry sponsored “courtesy” campaigns told us that smokers would be considerate and not smoke near others. That worked so well. The it was proposed that the laws of physics did not apply to smoke: it would simply not cross a magic line two metres from the bar so it couldn’t harm bar staff. Breathing it 2.02 metres away for the rest of us was OK, apparently. Secondhand smoke from very wealthy gamblers in high roller rooms where smoking is sometimes still allowed (as when the Barangaroo casino opens) is not harmful to others. It’s only harmful when it comes from ordinary mortals’ cigarettes, apparently.
It's not harmful even then unless you believe the hysteria over passive smoking entirely constructed by tobacco control junk scientists, some of the most accomplished liars the world has ever seen. And Simon knows that very well.

Still, let's set that aside for now and ask instead why the old duffer is going on about smoking when the headline is about vapers. Well, it's to conflate smoking with vaping, of course.
Today we are seeing the same sort of nonsense being rehearsed to twist the arms of state governments to allow vaping in spaces where smoking is banned. 
What, that vaping is harmless to bystanders? How is that nonsense when it is true? Unless Simon has some proper evidence to the contrary, it is absolutely no business of any state or national government to ban their use in public.
Vaping advocates first tried to argue that vape was as benign as exposure to steam in your shower, a sauna or from a kettle. The sometimes massive cumulonimbus-like billows you see blown by vapers consist of yes, water vapour, but also particles and nanoparticles of partially vapourised flavouring chemicals, propylene glycol (PG), nicotine and traces of metals shed from the battery-activated metal heating coil that vapourises this brew. Despite their small mass, such particles may have significant toxicological impact because of their increased propensity for deep penetration into the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems.
A lot of scary words there but - and this is quite important - has there been any observable or recorded proof that any of these "particles" and "traces" have or will in the future cause harm to vapers themselves, let alone non-vapers in close proximity (or from a distance considering many jurisdictions ban vaping in the open air!). The answer, of course, is no. And, again, Simon "doubt is my product" Chapman knows this very well too.
Vaping has only been widespread in some nations for 6-8 years. Chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases typically have latency periods of 30 or 40 years between the beginning of exposure to noxious agents and the first clinical signs of disease. So it is far too soon for anyone to be making calls that any apparent absence of health impacts from active or passive vaping means they are either benign or dangerous.
This is regularly trotted out by denialists but simply isn't true. You see, it may have escaped the old geezer's attention but we have advanced technology nowadays and an acute understanding of how chemicals react with the human body. We no longer need 30 or 40 years to observe what will happen because all these elements are well-known and their effect on humans understood. And considering  the volume of the "particles" and "traces" Simon refers to are so vanishingly small that it is only because of advanced technology that their existence can even be noticed, only an imbecile would try to pretend they present a realistic danger. This is why PHE can say with a huge degree of confidence that "there is no evidence of harm to bystanders from exposure to e-cigarette vapour and the risks to their health are likely to be extremely low", because it's true.

However, our intrepid tobacco industry useful idiot soldiers bravely on, determined to sow doubt and confusion till his last breath.
The recent 680 page door-stopper report on e-cigarettes from the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine repeatedly describes the extent and quality of the evidence about vaping as scant, immature and often of poor quality. However, it noted that “there is conclusive evidence that e-cigarette use increases airborne concentrations of particulate matter and nicotine in indoor environments compared with background levels.”
It would be surprising if they didn't, but Simon has still not come up with anything to say that this increase has any significant effect on health. But then, that isn't the point of the piece, he just wants to sling mud and hope some sticks.

Next up, we see Simon's legendary ignorance about how businesses work.
The Dow chemical company which makes PG advises “Dow does not support or recommend the use of Dow’s glycols where breathing or human eye contact with the spray mists of these products is likely”.
Well of course Dow is not going to put its name to anything like that. Why would they? Any business which did would be run by morons. There is no need for Dow to do so, so why do it? I'm sure privately they'd be very pleased that their products are being used in an emerging market but vaping is pretty niche considering the huge use of their chemicals in other global industries. It's not even worth their while investigating it considering they know others will do so without them having to invest a single dollar.

Note how Chappers has scratched around for something, anything, which agrees with his prejudice against vaping. It's almost like he sees a flicker of hope for his dying campaign and just grabs it, no matter how tendentious it is. While dominoes fall all around him - the UK BMA and the American Cancer Society recently cautiously jumped his ship and made favourable noises about e-cigs - someone should tell Simon about this thing called confirmation bias. Oh hold on ...

Oblivious to his double standard considering he slates climate change deniers for clutching at straws, he then cherry-picks once more by citing the fantastically absurd study - published in the Tobacco Control comic he used to edit - of junk scientists undercover at a vaping convention.
Compared head-to-head, cigarette smoke emits far more of most of these ingredients than does vape from an e-cigarette. But when you get lots of vapers in a room, particle concentrations can build significantly
When researchers counted particles in the air of 4023 cubic meter room at a vaping convention on six occasions with between 59 and 86 people vaping, particle counts were 125-330 times higher than in the same room when it was empty, with concentrations higher than those recorded in bars where cigarette smoking was allowed.
As someone who has spent a career pretending to be a clever 'expert' on epidemiology, Chappers should know that it's not just the prevalence of particles in the air that is important, rather their make-up.

As I have mentioned before, Chapman trying to conflate smoke with vapour - as he is doing here - illustrates a profound ignorance on the subject matter or is a deliberate attempt to mislead the reader.
Still, those numbers are scary aren't they? Well kinda, except that they are talking about particulates as if vapour is the same threat as other airborne pollutants. The Scottish EPA describes 'particulate matter' as "the term used to describe particles of soot (carbon), metals or inorganic salts", while the US Environmental Protection Agency categorises them as "emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.  Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.". E-cig vapour is an aerosol made up of liquid droplets, which are entirely different chemically and physically. Again, do you think they knew this or are just thick?
You have to ask the same question Australia's most prominent crank, I reckon.

So here we are, halfway through his article, and we still have nothing but innuendo and deliberate misdirection to prove his theory that vaping should be legislatively banned in public places.

But he's only just getting the bullshit wagon into second gear.
E-cigarette advocates like to paint folksy scenes of one or two “considerate” vapers having a quiet and discreet vape in the corner of a pub. But occupational health and clean air regulations are not drafted to accommodate a little bit of asbestos or an occasional excess of carbon monoxide.
Yep, having just made the leap of comparing water droplets with bitumen, he doubles down by suggesting that vapour is on a par with asbestos and carbon monoxide which can kill in a short space of time, despite just having said we won't see any evidence of harm for 30 or 40 years. It's the argument of a 10 year old.
Public policy needs to deal with the diverse densities of patrons who might vape indoors. If vaping were allowed indoors, would any restrictions apply? Would bar staff be required to limit the number of people vaping, or request or order them to be discreet or “considerate” with their exhalations as with the ineffective approaches that were once made to smokers? Will arguments occur about whether a plume is excessive? How might “clouding” be forbidden?  Will airlines allow a maximum of five passengers to vape but not 50? Good luck with all of that.
Well, considering Chapman has not yet proven any evidence of actual harm, it's a bit premature to be talking about the problems that governments might have making policy, don't you think? But then, it is his default setting that there is no role for anything other than the state where his prejudices are concerned.

It is precisely why it is such a nuanced debate that it should be up to the individual property owner to decide these things, not the state. No-one has proven causative harm from passive vaping yet - nor, I suggest, will they ever - and Simon hasn't made any credible case for it either, yet he is leaping forward to talking about what the law might look like. I know the geriatric bore is getting on a bit and his remaining years are limited, but if you are regulating people's lives there really should be a bit more patience before reaching for the statute book.
Vaping advocates also claim that indoor vaping bans will cause former smokers who now vape to go outside, where exposure to sensory cues from exiled cigarette smokers will trigger their relapse back to smoking.  This would be all the fault of non-smokers selfishly putting their own health and comfort ahead of vapers and contributing to their exiled stigmatisation.
For someone who has spent a lifetime telling us all that health trumps absolutely everything else, and that smoking is the most dangerous threat to life in history, this is absolutely hilarious! Now, apparently, the comfort and wild conspiracy theories of a few non-smokers who actually give a fuck about vaping are more important than vapers relapsing to smoking. You seriously couldn't make this up.

He finishes the article with yet more classic Chapmanisms, such as this one straight from his anti-tobacco playbook.
If e-cigarette emissions were really benign, indoor vaping advocates should take courage and call for vaping to be also allowed in classrooms, crèches, operating theatres and neonatal wards. If they know it’s harmless after just a few years of accumulated often poor evidence, why hold back redressing these heinous attacks on freedoms?
This is a rehash of his "if smokers enjoy smoking so much why do they not encourage their children to smoke" fallacy.

Yes, e-cig emissions are definitely benign but Simon, we don't live in a fantasy world like you do. There is absolutely no reason why a teacher shouldn't be allowed to vape occasionally while his students study - they probably wouldn't even notice it and I'm sure many teachers already do. Likewise it's not a threat in any of those other places. New mothers who smoke or used to smoke should also be allowed to vape in neo-natal wards; you might have conflated smoking with vaping in your own mind but you're a dinosaur and many others don't.

But just thinking up as many {gasp} unimaginable places to vape as a scare tactic misses the point, as I expect he intended to do. As policy goes it's not worth vapers demanding those areas are vape-friendly because very few want to vape in them and we live in a real world where snake oil salesmen like Chapman have scared people into thinking vapour is dangerous. Again, why would anyone bother spending their time and resources demanding something which has very little benefit? Only an idiot would suggest they do.
With delightful irony, the 2016 Global Forum on Nicotine held in Warsaw, banned ENDS use by delegates in the conference rooms. The organisers’ plea that delegates in public areas “please be discreet and considerate. Use low powered devices as it helps to keep the amount of vapour created to a minimum” could not have been more revealing.
No Simon, I think you'll find the Polish government banned vaping. The fact that so many 'public health' advocates at the event cared not a jot that people were stealthing proves that such laws are pointless, that you are on the wrong side of history and also a bit of a global embarrassment.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard tweeted over the weekend that NSW would not be allowing vaping where smoking was banned. This is prudent, responsible health policy that will be very welcomed by the 85% of adults who don’t smoke.
Most adults who don't smoke couldn't give a shit. This is like the dafties who claim that people who don't vote automatically would have voted against the party/cause that won. It is impossible that it could ever be true, so to claim 85% of non-smokers will welcome an ignorant policy from a retarded politician is just laughable. In actual fact, the vast majority of non-smokers don't care. If anything, a law like that would be welcomed by a small minority of anti-social snobs and prodnoses who like to interfere in everyone else's life. Fortunately, such people are probably less than 10% of any population.

I am pretty sure that the politician will be changing his tune before too long anyway, because Australia can't go on being a laughing stock amongst developed nations forever.

Of course, the crusty Aussie pensioner can carry on being a dedicated denier pumping out doubt-fostering propaganda as much as he likes alongside the Irish wobble-bottom bubble gum obsessive, the obese Californian alleged sex pest and the journeyman physiotherapist from Lincoln, but I don't see why the state should have to fall in with their tin foil millinery business.

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