Tuesday, 13 January 2015

If you "don't know enough yet", SHUT UP!

Norwegian politicians love their precautionary principle. Whenever they feel they don't know enough about something, they jump to this principle proclaiming that "we don't know enough yet". I came across an article in a small local newspaper today reporting that the Working Environment Committee for Namsos (a small town a bit further north from where I live) has suggested that e-cigarettes should be included in the smoking ban that prohibits smoking during work hours for all municipal employees. They say that "it is not known whether these substances are harmful" and because of that they want to ban e-cigs as well, using their precious precautionary principle.

The precautionary principle itself is not necessarily a bad thing, if used correctly. It is often reasonable to use it when a new product comes along, that for some reason (use common sense) might have some harmful effect, to be a bit cautious until research is available. The problem with Norwegian politicians, as the article clearly shows, is that they use it whenever THEY don't know enough, even if they haven't even dragged their asses over to the computer and googled the subject. When the politicians in Namsos talk about the substances in e-cigarettes I bet they don't even know what substances they are talking about. Clearly not actually. They are using the principle even if a lot of research is available, and has been for quite a while now, and that is just WRONG!

With all the research available on the subject today, if you "don't know enough yet" that has to mean you either don't want to know, you're to lazy to find the information or you're to incompetent to do it. In either case, if you're a politician responsible for creating reasonable regulations, you are not doing your job! IT IS YOUR JOB TO MAKE SURE YOU KNOW AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE ABOUT THE THINGS YOU ARE GOING TO REGULATE! In fact, anyone claiming that "we don't know enough yet" in the case of e-cigarettes in 2015 is clearly not qualified to join the discussion in the first place. I mean, it's totally ok to not know enough about whatever you don't want to know enough about, but then you need to stay out of the discussion as well.

Norway has a lot of oil and from time to time we have discussions about how much we should pump up. Lots of factors to consider, like how it affects the price, the environment and so on. I don't know much about this, so what I do is to keep my mouth shut. If I want to join that discussion, I see it as my duty to read up on the subject and make sure I know as much as possible. Oil is a huge part of the Norwegian economy and the decisions made in the area affects a lot of people. Joining this discussion without even taking time to read up a bit and educate my self would do nothing but making the discussion less productive. If I did what a lot of e-cig opponents, that know pretty much as little about e-cigarettes as I know about oil, do, and claim to be an expert in the area as well, I would also run the risk of affecting the final decision in a way that makes it far from the best. If I want to join the discussion on oil, it is my duty to at least read up on the subject, cause there is a lot of information easily available if I can be bothered to lean forward and grab the iPad on my living room table. If I can't be bothered to do so... I should continue to keep my mouth shut. The same thing goes for the e-cigarette debate, the information is there, just a google search away. If you "don't know enough about e-cigarettes yet", SHUT UP UNTIL YOU DO!

VaporVial Fivepawns
photo credit: jonnwilliams via photopin cc


  1. It is crazy how many people want to restric or ban e-cigarettes , but do not know much about them.

  2. The flip side of this is those who "know all they need to know" about a subject. These are even more dangerous than the crowd you are speaking to. The "know all they need to know" folks read only enough sources to confirm their beliefs about a subject and no more. They do not acknowledge any other information, nor are they likely to be intellectually curious individuals. Their only aim is to find information that confirms their already developed idea about a subject. They then amplify that information by spreading it throughout their peers and into the press. As the information they have *is* evidence they can spin it as fact, when it most likely is a small part of a picture taken out of context of the total knowledge about a subject. Certain Public Health grandees are well known for proliferating this kind of confirmation bias.

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