Urge WHO To End Lies About Vaping!
Vaping—the activity whereby you repeatedly inhale a nicotine-laced aerosol—is big business. And as one would expect, there’s an online publication which promotes the interests of the vaping industry, the Vaping Post. In a recent edition I came across the headline, ‘Asia-Pacific Groups Create Petition Urging WHO to End Lies About Vaping.’
Well, there’s a challenge!
This is put out by the Coalition of Asia-Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates to counteract the WHO which ‘continues to insist that safer nicotine products, such as vapes or e-cigarettes, are as harmful and dangerous as combustible tobacco and should be banned or heavily restricted.’ Therefore, we are told, the Coalition is pleading with the WHO to ‘Stop lying to us and only provide guidance based on sound scientific facts, methodologies and principles.’
As an example of the kind of sound scientific facts they are referring to, they mention ‘Public Health England’s seventh independent report on vaping,’ which, they say, confirms that vaping is the most commonly used method to quit smoking.’ Voilà! So how dare anyone such as the WHO criticise vapes or e-cigarettes?
Actually, the report’s conclusion is rather more modest: ‘Alternative nicotine delivery devices, such as nicotine vaping products, could play a crucial role in reducing the enormous health burden caused by cigarette smoking.’ (Emphasis added.)
Another source they allude to is a paper in the journal Addiction (9 March 2021), titled ‘The effectiveness of using e-cigarettes for quitting smoking compared to other cessation methods among adults in the United Kingdom.’ This conclusion, likewise cautiously put, is that ‘When used daily, electronic cigarettes appear to facilitate abstinence from smoking when compared with using no help.’ (Emphasis added.)
Ordinary or serious quit attempts?
Let’s take a look at how the authors of this paper went about their task.
They studied a total of 1,155 respondents in an online survey in ‘four wave-to-wave transitions,’ whatever that means, to determine abstinence from smoking for at least one month of follow-up, comparing the use of nicotine products, e-cigarettes (though these are also nicotine-derived products), or no help, to reach the above-mentioned conclusion.
Now we come to the interesting bit. The way they gathered the data was by a questionnaire in which, among other things, they asked the respondents
How many serious attempts to quit smoking (if any) have you made in the last 12 months? By serious attempt we mean you decided that you would try to make sure you never smoked again.
I have often wondered what difference there is, if any, between an old-fashioned common or garden quit attempt, and a serious quit attempt. Now all is reveled! Or is it? A serious quit attempt, we are told, means that the smoker has decided to try to make sure that he or she never smoked again. But is there any difference between trying to quit, trying to make sure you quit, and deciding to try to make sure you quit?
Not just nitpicking
I would hasten to point out that this is not just nitpicking. The very concept of trying to quit smoking, or making an attempt, serious or otherwise, to quit smoking, whether or not in addition you decide to try to make such an attempt, is flawed. In fact, it’s so flawed that it’s meaningless: either you smoke or you don’t. There’s no half-way house between smoking and not smoking. Similarly, a woman may be said either to be pregnant or not pregnant—she can’t be a little bit pregnant. It’s an example of the grammatical solecism of qualifying the absolutes, as in saying something is very unique, or that something is becoming more and more ubiquitous
But the idea of trying to quit smoking is worse that meaningless: it’s counterproductive—because it gives smokers an excuse to carry on smoking: ‘I smoke, but I’m trying to quit.’ So that’s all right then. Well, it isn’t all right. It’s very far from all right.
Nonetheless, the Tobacco Controllers by means of the curious concept of harm reduction have handed a bonanza to the vaping industry: it’s fine to promote and sell vaping products because sound scientific research says it’s a good thing!
Incidentally, I wonder how much reduction in harmfulness of tobacco use would satisfy the Tobacco Controllers. Is a certain amount of harm from tobacco use regarded as acceptable or inevitable? If so, how much, and why?
Perhaps someone would let me know.
Text © Gabriel Symonds