One of the oldest tricks in the Glantzian book, and one that has been used for decades by the swivel-eyed curtain-twitchers of the tobacco control industry, is the establishment of a body of evidence.
It only takes a cursory look at Stan’s outpourings to see how it works. Write something, then write something else that cites the first thing you wrote. Then when you come to write your third piece, you can now cite your first two sources to demonstrate “a growing body of evidence”.
You’ve got to hand it to Stan, the constant drip, drip, drip of suspect science, misinformation and barefaced lies seeps into the public consciousness almost imperceptibly, and it also doubles up as a slow but steady torture for those who stand in the ANTZ’ path and ask awkward questions.
It matters little to the sour-faced purse-lipped fanatics that any or all of it is utter tripe. They can scamper forth to whichever public organisation, tax-leeching fake charity or indeed government minister or representative they choose, and present their rock-solid scrapbook of “evidence” with which to back up their next illiberal proposal.
So it should come as no surprise that this is happening now, today, every day. With the help of a snappy bit of PR and a media only too happy to oblige when presented with yet another good scary headline, the anti-ecig movement have successfully thrown not one but two highly suspect formaldehyde/cancer/oh-my-god-we’re-all-gonna-die stories into the public sphere.
The damage is two-fold: first the public (and for public health purposes smokers who may be tempted to switch) begin to question whether vaping is as relatively benign as they previously thought; but an equally important and actually more damaging precedent is set.
With each report produced about formaldehyde – whether it’s a simple hit piece by a graduate hack in the media or a laminated binder presented to a politician by a group of prohibitionists – they can insert links, notes and citations about this newly fabricated “body of evidence”.
It matters not whether the science is childishly flawed if it can be thrust under the nose of a politician or other decision-maker who, as luck would have it, always enjoys a bit of banning and important-sounding legislation.
So let’s put the boot on the other foot:
There’s a growing body of evidence that the organisations that parroted first the Japanese formaldehyde story, and now the NEJM story, are not suitably qualified or knowledgeable enough to advise governments on ecig legislation. This is becoming a concern among politicians. These organisations are often completely unregulated, use glitzy and glamorous advertising to attract people and cannot be shown to be completely safe. In fact we should apply the precautionary principle here and close them down while we assess evidence of harm. Members of the public continue to question whether these groups should be ignored by law-makers until such time that they prove themselves to have not just glanced at but understood vaping products and how they work. Until then, people will simply assume that they’re just clueless fools with a highly suspect agenda.
There. I have assembled a body of evidence. Time to apply for some WHO funding.