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Hullabaloo


Monday, January 19, 2015

 
Quite Simply, a Masterpiece 

by tristero

Sally Satel, an oft-published scholar at the august American Enterprise Institute, has written a masterpiece for the NY Times this morning entitled Will the F.D.A. Kill Off E-Cigs? I strongly suggest reading the entire thing. It's not long, but oh, how brilliantly written. Consider the truly dazzling first sentence:
ELECTRONIC cigarettes, battery-powered devices that convert a solution of nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor that can be inhaled, or “vaped,” have the potential to wean a vast number of smokers off cigarettes.
What an elegant structure! It's got a clause within a clause terminated by soft, fuzzy positive words - "potential," "wean" - and a grandiose, hopeful final phrase: "vast number off cigarettes!" The sentence is so complex that many a reader may not notice that Satel openly admits she has zero evidence that so much as a single smoker has - let alone will - trade in her Marlboros for vaping.

While clearly influenced by Bill Kristol's sloppiness, still,  it takes no small amount of courage on Satel's part to present her failure to locate facts in support of her opinion in the lede of an op-ed for the New York Times. But she's only getting started. Graf 2, start of sentence 1:
The problem is, not enough smokers are switching to e-cigarettes, despite their relative safety...  
She is so right. Vaping is undoubtedly relatively safe. As in relative to going for a nice long swim in a river filled with starving piranhas. Or relative to jaywalking on the San Diego Freeway. Or relative to rectal feeding. Indeed, the list of behaviors that are more dangerous relative to vaping are truly endless. And never you mind that an added flavor ingredient in e-cigs can cause a condition called popcorn lung, "an irreversible disease which scars the lung and makes it impossible to breathe properly." That's just "barraging" us with unpleasant facts, as Satel's next sentence makes clear.

One of my favorite parts of this extraordinary essay is her suggested health labeling for e-cig packages:
 "While more research is needed, it is likely that e-cigarettes meeting F.D.A. interim safety guidelines are much safer than smoking.”
Here, with just 20 words, Satel set a new standard for industry-sponsored disinformation. Because translated into normal English, her proposed label actually says:
"No one has any idea whatsoever how deadly e-cigarettes can be for people dumb enough to use them. But the tobacco industry has paid handsomely to bypass FDA regulations while innocent animals get tortured to find out. What we do know, however, is that real cigarettes will kill you with more efficiency."
Satel will have to work mightily to top this effort. And no worries: I'm sure she's being compensated well-enough to try.


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