Just when you think you’ve met peak stupidity in the vaping debate, you find a new verse in vaping advocacy theology that makes you spray your coffee.
Here’s a proper doozie that often gets an outing from those with a taste for conspiracy theories. It runs like this.
“The obvious reason why there’s so much opposition among people in public health to all the regulatory reforms being advocated, is that these people are just trying to protect their jobs. Vaping is driving smoking down so fast that tobacco control people can see the writing on the wall. If there are no smokers left, they won’t have any problem left to deal with. So no wonder they are desperate to try slow down the inevitable.”
It’s an argument that some have used for many years
The deranged fraternal twin to this argument invariably then pipes up with “And those working in tobacco control are paid absolute fortunes and massive grants by governments, so they have huge incentives to attack anything which might really drive down smoking.” This recent blog by a Queensland vaper with recent form in getting things completely wrong (see below) ticks both these boxes, and plenty more besides.
I recommend you try to read the blog right through to get a feeling for the depths of claptrap these people can plumb when they let their fantasies off the leash. But let’s here focus on a few passages.
Where to begin with this batty nonsense? First up, if public health workers really didn’t want smoking rates to fall, why have they kept successfully advocating ever since the late 1960s for policies and programs that have caused the brakeless train to head south almost continually for 40 years? Here’s a graph of falling smoking prevalence in Australian adults, from results from two different survey series.
So what’s driving this disaster for the tobacco industry? Chance? Luck? How about synergies between the full suite of tobacco control policies and campaigns that’s made Big Tobacco long describe Australia as “one of the darkest markets in the world”? Mass reach public awareness campaigns (with beautiful irony, the very same ones that motivated many vapers to try ecigs); tax rises; total advertising and promotion bans; smokefree public spaces, public transport, bars, clubs and stadiums; retail display bans; graphic health warnings on packs; and plain packaging?
The massive Tobacco in Australia website documents the research evidence for all of these across hundreds of pages here.
So the fruitcake wing of vaping advocacy would have you believe that those of us who across 40+ years have worked to hold high success in achieving every policy and law reform we ever fought for; who saw millions of smokers quit and still more never take it up including record numbers of Australians today who have never smoked ; and who caused smoking to be utterly denormalised from an aspirational, glamourous thing that happened in every setting you ever entered to one where 90% of smokers today regret ever starting; who saw smoking rates fall to where they have never been lower; and who drove lung cancer incidence rates down to a level last seen in the early 1960s …. well, of course anyone can appreciate that we were making all this happen because secretly, we really didn’t want smoking to keep falling.
Secretly, we wanted everything we did to fail because in the words of our incisive, shrewd commentator cited earlier “You see as any shrewd person would realise, if you are getting paid big money for eliminating a problem and you eliminate it entirely, then the job is over, it’s done and therefore you have nothing to justify putting your hand out for.”
Presumably it’s just the same for COVID-19 specialists, those trying to reduce domestic violence, skin cancer, road deaths … in fact anyone trying to solve any problem. We need to understand that none of these problems have ever been eliminated because all involved are busy stomping on the brakes so they can keep their jobs.
Perhaps it’s more subtle than that. Perhaps we all secretly agree that the galloping uptake of vaping will be so furious and so amazingly successful in slashing smoking rates, that the bottom will fall out of all remaining smoking. Conversion to vaping will be all but total. When the miracle of vaping came along, the penny finally dropped and we all suddenly decided that enough was enough, saw the looming unemployment we all faced and called for e-cigarettes to be seriously regulated into prescription status.
But hang on. Neither of those assumptions are true: nowhere has vaping caused major declines in smoking prevalence, and vaping is quite dismal in its effectiveness in smoking cessation. In England, where vape shops wallpaper high streets and vaping theologists dominate policy forums, the proportion of smokers who vape, according to the latest data summary from Robert West’s Smoking In England project, e-cigarette use in adults has been stable since 2013, plateaued in smokers and recent ex-smokers, and the majority of e-cigarettes users are still smoking (dual users).Vaping may well be holding far more in smoking than it tips out of it.
Smoking seems to have even kicked up a little in the very latest English survey.
And check out from page 8 in our submission to the recent Senate enquiry into vaping, just how very ordinary vaping is in helping smokers quit. Would you take a drug that failed with 90% of users? That’s what the latest Cochrane review concluded about how good e-cigarettes were in quitting in clinical trials.
“Millions upon millions of dollars of grants via the federal department of health”
According to our Queensland blogger, those whose assessment of the evidence on e-cigarettes the government trusts have been rewarded with lavish grants from the Department of Health. This is curious, because it’s the NHMRC which awards research grants to successful applicants each year, not the Department. I stopped applying for grants well before I retired in 2016. And neither of my co-authors (Mike Daube and Matthew Peters) of the submission to the recent Senate committee on harm reduction which was frequently cited in the published majority report have any recent grants either. Perhaps I should go and check my letterbox or one of my many Swiss and Caribbean secret bank accounts?
But, interestingly, look who have recently been awarded a very large ($2.5m) grant to look at tobacco endgames. Why, it’s a list of excellent researchers which includes several who have often been praised by vaping advocates. So something seems to be not quite right here with the claim that vaping skeptics are being duchessed by the government.
But oh, I forgot. As our Queensland blogger told us, it’s also New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s small change via Bloomberg Philanthropies which is secretly showering Australian vaping skeptics with funds.
ATHRA director Alex Wodak seems to know this too, tweeting this week that the Australian Council on Smoking and Health in Perth (directed by Maurice Swanson) is funded via Bloomberg money apparently routed through “a few [of course nameless] organisations”. Very odd indeed, that neither Maurice nor Bloomberg know anything about this.
Wodak has previously accused the Cancer Council of accepting tobacco money. When this was shown to be absolute nonsense, he offered no retraction or apology. This is what it’s come to.
See also these previous blogs in this series.
Vaping advocates say the darndest things 2: Tobacco control advocates help Big Tobacco. WordPress 12 Aug, 2020
Vaping advocates say the darndest things 3: Australia’s prescribed vaping model “privileges” Big Tobacco Feb 15, 2020
Vaping advocates say the dardnest things 5: I take money from China and Bloomberg to conduct bogus studies. WordPress 6 Mar, 2021
Vaping advocates say the darndest things 6: There’s nicotine in potatoes and tomatoes so should we restrict or ban them too? WordPress 9 Mar, 2021