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E-cig Opponents Creating Their Own Facts

By Matt McConnell

Friday April 4, 2014
Too often e-cig studies report only portions of data to fit a preconceived conclusion

E-cig Opponents Creating Their Own Facts

Ladies and gentlemen of the mainstream media, if you are wondering if this new industry possibly encourages kids to smoke cigarettes, there are actual facts available. There is no need to manufacture conclusions based on sketchy analysis of real data.

Look at the data and the facts become clear. It’s not that hard! Hitting a Nolan Ryan fastball is hard. Assembling a bedroom set from Ikea can be hard. Trying to text as fast as a 12 year old is hard. Honestly appraising data in an unbiased fashion should not be that hard!

Speaking of facts, I believe that we should follow the lead of former Senator Moynihan who once said on the Senate floor, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” So, let’s follow this advice and give an honest appraisal of how electronic cigarettes may potentially impact youth smoking.

First, before we get started I have to tell you about the source of my frustration. In the last week many high profile news sources such as Consumer Reports, Huff Post, the major networks, etc, have reported that electronic cigarettes likely lead to smoking cigarettes. The source of their conclusion was a study, actually more so a statistical intepretation than a factual study, led by Stanton Glantz of the Center for Tobacco Control Research.

Dr. Glantz is a known opponent of electronic cigarettes as well as the tobacco industry. There is nothing wrong with that. We all agree that smoking is bad and we know why smoking is bad. Dr. Glantz, we are on the same side! All of this animosity is like McDonalds coming out against potato farmers, it’s like Al Gore protesting recycling, it’s like Han Solo going to pay off Jaba instead of going back to handle business with the Death Star. It does not make sense!

Dr. Glantz is fighting to prevent tobacco addiction and the horrible consequences of that addiction. That being said, Stanton Glantz does carry an obvious bias against electronic cigarettes that was once again apparent in his recent statistical analysis of the most recent data collected by the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey, which is designed to track youth smoking statistics.

youth_teens_smoking2Glantz concluded that “Use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among US adolescents.” The words ‘may encourage’ were, of course, much less emphasized in mass media reporting.

Obviously the mainstream media readily accepted Glantz’s conclusion but perhaps it would have been advisable that these reporters actually examine that data for themselves rather than simply rebroadcast someone else’s conclusion.

People want to know, “How do e-cigs work?” and they deserve to know the entire, factual story not assumed snippets with pre-conceived conclusions.

Now we get to why I am steamed! I am steamed because e cigarette studies are so often misquoted or reported without context. I am steamed because I have examined the actual statistical data and feel that once again data is being misinterpreted to serve an agenda. Being the rebel I am, I like to draw my own conclusions rather that have someone else make the conclusions for me. So here is what I’ve gathered from the data and what it actually said about electronic cigarettes.

  • Teens and adolescents that have tried electronic cigarettes are more likey to use tobacco.
  • Teens and adolescents that use electronic cigarettes are more likely to plan to quit smoking cigarettes
  • Teens and adolescents that have experiemented with electronic cigarettes are less likely to abstain from smoking tobacco.

The actual data includes a large number of 30 day, 6 month and 1 year projections collected in the questionnaires but the above three points are the agreed upon conclusions from the data. Now, the last point that discusses that youth who use e-cigs are more likely active tobacco smokers is the single piece that was used to portray electronic cigarettes as a gateway to smoking. Talk about a leap of logic.

live_long_and_prosper_smallI love logic. In fact, logic was my favorite class in college. Well, top three anyway. In film class we watched movies, hard to beat that. Logic was much better than physics, that is for certain. Also logic is like thee philospohy of Vulcan and how cool was Spock? Back to the point. Now, in the study of logic one fallacy is a branch circular reasoning known as “begging the question.” Hang in here with me for a minute and I will explain.

Begging the question logic errors occur when someone makes the argument that A is true because B is true, B is true because C is true and C is true because A is true.

Clear as mud?

Lets break it down.

Let’s say that argument A is “E-cigs lead to teen smoking.”, argument B is “Teens who use E-cigs smoke” and argument C is “Teens who smoke are more likely to try e-cigs”. Neither B or C actually support the first argument. This begs the question, do young people that try e-cigs first end up smoking tobacco? None of this data can answer that question. But there are questions that it can answer.

The data does tell us that youth who try electronic cigarettes are more likely to have a goal of quitting tobacco. This is a good thing. We do not want youth using electronic cigarettes but it is better than smoking. The data also suggests that teens that smoke are the ones trying e-cigs, not teens that do not smoke. Are there cases where a young person has tried an e-cig and then became addicted to tobacco? Probably, but we do not have that data so we cannot gage whether or not it is a widespread problem or simply uncorrelated risk taking behaviors.

We recommend that the next National Youth Tobacco Survey actually addresses this question directly because we do want to know the answers. Addressing a question directly is the ultimate act of logic. We should know the answers because if there is a problem in this area the industry needs to address it as best as possible. If we can collect specific data, then we can reach fact based conclusions. The more logic and facts that we involve in the discussion of the future of electronic cigarettes, the better off we will all be.

Wishing you a logical day and may you live long and prosper!




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