Which side is the e-cig science really on – does it support your tribe or mine?

It’s surely a truism that no one ever won an argument or changed anyone’s mind simply by making an assertion. A traditional tactic of those who could give no sound reasoning to support a potentially contentious view was to claim God was on their side.

These days outside those fundamentalist enclaves where the God card still trumps reason for God substitute Science.

There’s really no way to counter either, other than by counter-assertion: God/Science is on my side, not yours.

If this sounds unproductive, an unlikely route to agreement on anything, it remains all too common. Not least in the world of e-cigarettes and vaping regulation.

As far as ECigIntelligence can tell, God has no opinion on the subject. Science, almost equally unhelpfully, has plenty of opinions and they don’t all agree.

Which leaves the world divided between those who will swear e-cigarettes are an enormous boon to public health, and those equally adamant that they are a snare and a danger. And both will claim vehemently that the science is on their side.

The ECigIntelligence archives are ram-full of examples to demonstrate this divide, with another plum example this week in our account of events in the Swedish parliament.


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    Tribal origins


    On one side we had the government asserting that there was “little research” to support industry claims that e-cigs helped smokers quit, but “more evidence” that fruit or candy flavours are a manufacturers’ ruse to attract young customers.

    On the other side was the equally familiar argument that e-cigs do aid smoking cessation, and that flavours are vital in helping them do so.

    You pays your money and you takes your choice (and there’s relevance in that old saying, too).

    Yup, it’s all about flavours again. This time the non-government, pro-vape side won the vote. But with both sides claiming to have the science in their corner, the decision, as ever, really comes down not to reason or debate but to already-held views. And they, more than most people would like to admit, owe a lot to such tribal matters as your political allegiance, your religion or your country.

    In the US, for example, you’ll find most Democrats are anti-vaping but pro-cannabis, while most Republicans are the opposite. However illogical both those contradictory positions are, it’s all to do with history fascinating social history that we have neither time nor space to go into here. Suffice to say tribal belonging engenders “gut feeling” that has little or nothing to do with reason or science.

    And talking of tribalism and contrary positions, what chance would you say harm reduction specialist Alex Wodak has of persuading his fellow Australians to follow New Zealand’s example on e-cig regulation? Or, indeed, on anything else?

    Aidan Semmens ECigIntelligence staff

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    Aidan Semmens