E-cigarettes and junk science

Clive Bates skewers a paper by a pair of UCSF researchers purporting to show that e-cigarettes lead to cigarette smoking, using purely correlational data. Making the inference from “People who have used e-cigarettes are more likely to have used tobacco cigarettes than people who haven’t” to “E-cigarette use is a gateway to smoking” is not done in polite company. The editors of JAMA Pediatrics should be embarrassed by this; the methods in the piece don’t pass the giggle test.

The good news is that the tobacco control research and policy community is not united on this issue, with plently of dissent from the anti-e-cig party line. The bad news is that politicians in places such as Los Angeles have allowed themselves to be buffaloed by junk science into making junk policy.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

7 thoughts on “E-cigarettes and junk science”

  1. Left out a word:

    The bad news is that politicians in places such as Los Angeles have allowed themselves to be buffaloed by junk science into making junk policy again.

    There … fixed it for you.

  2. I do not agree that there is a logical case against what the LA CC did. (This one time.)

    What is wrong with quality of life regulation? The weather is nice here most of the time, I don't see why it is wrong to ask people to put off vapors outside. That there are existing public health questions bothers me not a whit.

    1. Where I work, ecigs were banned in the break room mostly because one guy was exhaling large quantities of visible vapor and that was making people uncomfortable. I’m not sure that ban was the wrong choice even though I think ecigs are probably a very good thing overall. That they are much better than smoking tobacco does not make them appropriate everywhere. On the other hand, here we ban smoking at outdoor transit stops and I think it would probably be appropriate to allow ecigs there. More nuanced policies are bound to be slower developing than either allowing them everywhere or treating them just like tobacco cigarettes; they take more work to develop.

  3. PS- can you change the sign-in so you only have to do it once a day? Or, that you can stay signed in all the time, if you so choose? (Oh heck, is that a preference somewhere? I don't even remember who the group is…) I miss the other bloviators we used to have.

  4. I am much more pessimistic about what LA did. It shows that even at this point, politicians are afraid to follow science. It is a little reminiscent of the opposition to needle exchange programs and methadone clinics in the past.

    I think what this shows is that while some of the most problematic aspects of the War on Drugs are softening, it is going to be a long, hard-fought struggle to really change politiicans' mindset that there is a price to be paid if one is seen as soft on drugs.

    1. But I thought there was no scientific consensus on public health consequences of ecigs. (Quality of life and addiction being separate topics, I should think. Even if they're wonderful for addicts, I might still want them banned where ciggies are, sorry.)

      I mean, most likely it will turn out that they help at least some people, and would be a good thing overall if kept away from the kiddies, but they're so new, do we really know that yet? At least they seem new to me. Guess I'm not cutting edge though.

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