This post may ramble a bit but bear with me, there’s a point to this.
With all the talk about vaping, vaping epidemics, vaping deaths, vaping illness, you would be forgiven for thinking that vaping had replaced smoking as the new cause of all the world’s ills. You pretty much can’t open a news paper, turn on the news or check facebook without some story about vaping. Most of them about the harms, the addiction, the huge use among youth and deaths from using e-cigs. Doctors claiming vaping is worse than smoking and alcohol combined, health bodies advising people not to use e-cigs and politicians calling for bans, plain packaging and ironically a call for regulations from the very politician who oversaw the first set of regs. A lot of these stories are repeats of stories from last week and one in particular is from as long ago as 9 years.
I think some sort of collective amnesia has taken hold of our media, medical community and politicians. Discussing one of the calls for a ban on a radio show, I brought up the fact that smoking was still the most risky way to use nicotine. “Forget about smoking for a minute” replied the presenter. I was shocked tbh as without smoking their is no need for vaping or more specifically without the health toll from smoking, vaping is a bit pointless. However I do understand her urge to forget smoking, why confuse issues when smoking is no longer an issue in our new tobacco free society, right?
The leader of the opposition (or is he; ) 😉 Deputy Micheal Martin got up on his hind legs and in a leaders question asked the current Taoiseach about vaping and included this statement “We had been really succeeding in terms of getting young people away from the whole idea of nicotine addiction” I have to wonder if anyone is paying attention to the reality around them. Oh if you read the linked transcript, be warned, it’s full of misinformation, half truths and political grandstanding. I’d love to know who wrote it for him?
Over in America where this all started, they seem to be having the same memory problems. Though in their case there’s an excuse, the devils lettuce, jazz cigarettes or cannabis as we call it. For some reason the anti tobacco effort in the US seems to be entirely focused on vaping. Being driven to panic and knee jerk legislation. The Truth Initiative cite vaping and flavors as their top issues. This is an organisation set up to;
Truth Initiative is America’s largest nonprofit public health organization committed to making tobacco use a thing of the past.
Lets see if we really can forget about smoking. Is it a ‘thing of the past’? Are we now at the end game for a tobacco free society, 5%? Are young people turning away from nicotine addiction? Is vaping the threat it’s being presented as?
Well according to Action on Smoking and Health in the US, 13 people die every minute from a smoking related illness. Bear in mind so far around 30 people have died from vaping since 2008 and most of those confirmed as black market THC vaping. I know which one I would focus on but for some reason that’s best forgotten about.
In Ireland smoking is at around 20% prevalence. Smoking prevalence among youth, the 17 to 25 age group is 19%. That’s the people Michael told us we were so successful in getting away from nicotine addiction.
Vaping is 4% and among non smokers less than 1%. That’s the group everyone is losing their shit over!
So smoking is forgotten while the focus is on vaping. Why? Could it be because vaping is new and ‘visible’ while smoking is so common we hardly notice it anymore? Is it because, for the people driving this panic, smoking is actually down around the 5%? They don’t see people smoking among the circles they move in so for them it’s less of a concern? This is known as Salience and need a bit of unpacking.
The salience (also called saliency) of an item is the state or quality by which it stands out from its neighbors. Salience bias (also known as perceptual salience) is the cognitive bias that predisposes individuals to focus on items that are more prominent or emotionally striking and ignore those that are unremarkable,
So that kind of explains why some people are freaking out about vaping, for them it’s new and scary and obvious, due to its newness. However the people paid to deal with smoking, the anti smoking groups should not have this bias, after all, they have the data available to them, they are paid to focus on smoking. Salience doesn’t excuse it for them. They don’t have the excuse of not being reminded of the prevalence of smoking. They don’t have the excuse of thinking because they see some few vaping that it’s an ‘epidemic’. If they are ignoring smoking to focus on vaping it has to be something more. Perhaps vaping is a new danger we should be cautious of? Unfortuniatly the anti smoking people don’t seem to be convinced of this because instead of telling us why it’s a new danger, they chose to lie about it.
You may ask why I accuse them of lying? Lying is a strong accusation, You need to be cautious about calling someone a liar. But when all of the claims about vaping being an epidemic, causing death and the rest are demonstrably false. You have to suspect they are lying, or stupid. If they truly had reason to think vaping was a danger they are duty bound to inform us, instead they only engages in deception, obfuscation, and a whole pile of ; ‘could’, ‘might’, ‘may’ and ‘we don’t know’.
So much so that someone pointing out the actual proven risk from smoking gets told ” Forget about smoking”
I guess once a moral panic grips a society, rational thinking goes out the window. It becomes a hysterical witch hunt. Which this seems to be right now. Claims without any evidential support are given free rein, Accusations of ‘colluding with the devil‘ or being a ‘tool of Satan‘ are tossed around. When fighting an enemy sometimes paranoia is a good thing but when you turn on potential allies then you have lost the plot or forgotten the reason your fighting in the first place.
Forgotten about the toll on health, lives and the human misery caused by smoking.