Electronic cigarettes are rapidly making their presence known to the general public. This is driving a lot of groups and individuals to up their campaigns against the promising new devices. In their haste to engage and argue, these groups and individuals regularly commit logical fallacies (pronounced Phallus-ies). Here’s the most common ones.
Electronic cigarette companies and supporters are claim e-cigs aren’t harmful at all. But, surprise, they are harmful.
The Strawman fallacy refers to misrepresenting your opponent’s argument in order to make it easier to defeat. American electronic cigarette companies are very careful about making harm-related claims about their products. None would suggest that their devices are harmless. Recent studies do find that e-cigs contain toxic ingredients. However, all harmful ingredients found occur at rates lower than that of traditional cigarettes and below the standards set by the FDA. Electronic cigarettes are a safer (not safe) alternative to smoking.
Some politicians go so far as to suggest that electronic cigarettes exist in a loophole territory solely to allow the sale of tobacco products to minors. No matter how little information an individual has on electronic cigarettes, it’s unlikely they would think the sale of them to minors should be legal. This is easy and pointless to argue against. There is no loophole. E-cig sales to minor are illegal in all 50 US states as they are considered tobacco products.
The FDA is not in support of electronic cigarettes. They must be bad.
The Appeal to Authority fallacy uses an authority’s position in place of actual evidence to support a judgement. The Food and Drug Administration has essentially stated that they don’t know enough about electronic cigarettes to make accurate statements about their dangers. The FDA is far from an infallible agency (here’s some recent evidence to that point). The FDA does not support electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation therapy and they warn about their use absent any relation to traditional cigarettes (which are known to be deadly).
American nicotine policies have been perpetually behind the times largely due to the FDA. A report in 2007 from the Royal College of Physicians in Britain stated that “Current systems of regulation of nicotine products inhibit the development of innovative medicinal nicotine substitutes for cigarettes, and perpetuate the use of the most dangerous nicotine products. This is unjust, irrational and immoral.”
Electronic cigarettes look and act like traditional cigarettes and they are a tobacco product. They and the companies making them must be as bad as traditional cigarettes and Big Tobacco.
The Genetic fallacy places judgement based on where something comes from. Cigarette nicotine may come from tobacco, but it exists in potatoes, tomatoes, celery, and eggplant. Many individuals do their best to weigh the sins of Big Tobacco against electronic cigarettes. There have been claims that electronic cigarettes exist only to ensnare teens in smoking with wild flavors and youngster targeted advertising. As well, some claim electronic cigarettes are just the next step in a move to further addict people that don’t know better than to refuse to smoke in the first place. As further testing is done on the effectiveness of e-cig as cessation tools, it will likely become easier to argue against these statements.
Electronic cigarettes are deadly and ineffective as cessation tools. We must assume this to be true until the industry disproves this.
The Burden of Proof fallacy occurs when an individual makes a claim (like, say, electronic cigarettes are deadly) and then demands that the claim must be disproved by someone else to be false. The FDA is constructing requirements for electronic cigarettes to be considered viable smoking cessation aids. One of the requirements offered is that companies must prove that the public visibility of electronic cigarettes won’t lead to children thinking that smoking is cool and lead to a new generation of smokers. We probably wouldn’t have beer if companies had to first prove that its existence wouldn’t lead to underage drinking parties.
The burden of proof might not be a problem for multi-billion dollar pharmaceuticals companies. But the FDA has all but choked small business out of the medical field with its bare hands (possibly for the better). But e-cigs are a new industry without the mounts of cash to perform elaborate studies that combine a vague territory between social trends, psychology, marketing, and make it up as you go along science. The largest company involved in electronic cigarettes at the moment is Lorillard (producers of Kent and Newport cigarettes) is a measly $16.8 billion company compared to Johnson & Johnson ($191 billion) or Pfizer ($183 billion).
We look forward to more serious arguments coming along to combat electronic cigarettes. Our jobs will be a lot more interesting when intelligent discourse is the standard rather than the exception.