Friday, 12 February 2016

The art of ignoring evidence

Trying to get back on track a bit after being kind of away from blogging for a while now. I can't really promise anything, as I still have limited time to blog... but whenever time allows it I'll try to give you guys some updates :)

This week, or actually the last couple of weeks, I've had to count to 10 several times to avoid bursting out in a tirade of swearing and name-calling that would probably have ended with some of my colleagues making some phone calls and me in a mental institution. Luckily I was able to count all the numbers from 0 to 10 (I'm a computer geek, we always start at 0), not ignoring any one of them. So I was fine ... after a while. The reason for all this counting was an article in Norwegian newspaper VG's "Opinions"-section, written by medical doctor and epidemiologist Preben Aavitsland, titled "But, E-cigarettes don't work". He had of course been reading some of Stanton Glantz' work, more on that below. In addition to ignoring the fact that millions of people have quit using e-cigarettes, he talks about never smoking youth taking up smoking in large numbers calling e-cigs an epidemic, and of course "we don't know enough yet". This guy is actually against implementing the TPD here in Norway ... he wants a full ban. But... we have Karl Erik Lund over here and of course he answered the day after explaining that Glantz is full of shit, e-cigs work even for the heaviest smokers and there is evidence that not many never smokers take up vaping. So far so good.

But then, some days later, Aavitsland "strikes back", according to VG, and this time he wants to wait for more evidence. He links to a bunch of debunked "studies" and finishes of with this:
Incidentally, Lund, the new study I quoted, is funded by the US Medicines Agency, Health Research and Cancer Research Institute and the lead author is a professor at the University of California.
Oh my ... a professor! My God, I guess he knows what he's talking about then? Well ... there are some who would disagree, and they're also professors. Listen to this from the BBC: It turns out, even one of the peer reviewers recommended that Professor Glantz work should never have been published. Seems to me we have a classic case of one professor versus... a bunch of them.

Aavitsland keeps saying that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes work and he even says it would be easy to prove it if they did work. Can you believe this guy?
It will be fairly easy to detect any effect on smoking cessation of the latest e-cigarettes. Distribute a number of smokers randomly for quit attempts using e-cigarettes with nicotine, electronic cigarettes without nicotine, nicotine gum or no aid. Count up after half a year the percentage of each group that has managed to quit smoking for good. If the study shows that e-cigarettes are significantly more effective than the other methods, I'll be happy to reconsider the matter.
Well guess what, there is a lot of evidence that e-cigs work, including studies similar to what Aavitsland suggests (of course in addition to the millions of users who have quit already). Have a look at this. Now, all who thinks Aavitsland will reconsider the matter, raise their hands.... what no-one?

I didn't raise my hand either. Some people have just perfected the art of ignoring the evidence they don't like, and Aavitsland has shown in his articles that he's somewhat of an expert. Top of his class, together with Sanner and Grimsrud. Actually we have quite a few of them speaking up here in Norway at the moment, guess it has something to do with the proposed regulations. In late January we had Camilla Stoltenberg and Knut-Inge Klepp from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) publishing this in Aftenposten (another big newspaper in Norway): E-Cigarettes: A admission of failure if we replace a harmful product with another. I mean, why are we still talking about the gateway theory? They're also concerned that e-cigarettes will be the "new Snus"... which have to be a real problem since snus is the main reason Sweden and Norway has a lot less cases of lung cancer than the rest of the world. There is quite a lot of evidence available on this, but hey... let's just ignore that shall we? They keep on talking like this evidence just don't exist, even if it's presented to them again and again. No comments on it, no efforts to debunk it ... nothing ... they just pretend it simply does not exist.

Trying to reason with these people is quite impossible to be honest. It would, as one of my colleagues would say, be like talking to sheep (or any other farm animal for that matter). I bet if they decided that the sky is green, you could have a billion people testifying it's blue and they would still go: "You know the sky.... it's green". Luckily most people are not that way, and hopefully most politicians are like most people. The sad part is that these people have titles, which the media thinks means something, so their scaremongering bullshit gets published. This means we have to fight even harder to educate politicians, decision makers and the general public if we're going to win this battle. Cause the only way we're going to win is to make sure that the people who are going to make the important decisions actually get the important evidence ... and then hope they don't ignore it. And we WILL fight, they're not going to get away with this!
Vapour UK


  1. Given they somehow ignore the crushing evidence of the benefits of snus, it seems they have lots of practice in ignoring evidence!

  2. Tell him to look up the term confirmation bias.

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