Grotty Crotty

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Grotty Crotty

One from the archives.

I like California. I really, really do. But the constant flow of anti-vaping propaganda that vomits from its university system sometimes makes me wish the San Andreas Fault would just dump the whole damn state on the bed of the Pacific.

We have yet another study from San Diego, revisiting the old nonsense about e-cigarette vapour creating superbugs. It’s nothing special, just another bunch of gassed mice and some not very important stuff about – shock, horror! – lung cells in a petri dish dying if you pickle them in e-liquid. By this point I’m pretty much numb to this sort of research – it’s tentative science at best, adds little to what we understand about vaping, and I don’t think it’s even having the media impact it used to.

What interests me about the latest study isn’t the study itself; it’s the lead author. The senior researcher on the paper was Laura E Crotty Alexander, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego who also works in a Veteran’s Administration hospital. Dr Crotty Alexander, at first glance, seems like an amiable enough sort – a serious and idealistic young researcher who’s genuinely concerned about health – and when she popped up on Twitter a couple of days ago I felt she deserved sympathetic treatment. Even if some of her claims were, you, know, a bit wild.

Well, okay. She’s young, and probably doesn’t get out of her ivory tower much. Maybe she isn’t really clued up enough to know the difference between owning 30% of companies and accounting for 30% of sales through American convenience stores.* So we can let that one slide, probably. She’s wrong, but no big deal.

Oh look, what’s this?

Right, this isn’t so good. Looks like she’s bought into the myth about “high voltage” e-cigs producing formaldehyde, and thinks power should be restricted for our own good. Again this is totally wrong, but maybe she was too busy with her own research to know that Peyton and Pankow’s pharma-funded formaldehyde hatchet job has been ruthlessly dismantled by real scientists.

Or maybe not. Maybe she’s an anti-vaping activist with an agenda to push.

And then someone kindly posted a link to a video she made a couple of years ago. It’s basically an anti-vaping propaganda video by the University of California, with Crotty Alexander presented as an expert on electronic cigarettes. The interviewer lobs her a series of highly loaded questions, all calculated to let her trot out the standard lines. “Targeted at children”, that sort of thing. She massively misrepresents propylene glycol as “something you’d find in a laboratory” rather than something you’d find in, you know, cakes and toothpaste. It’s a smear piece from start to finish.

So no, this is not an idealistic young researcher who’s uncovered something shocking. This is another anti-nicotine crusader whose first research project just coincidentally happened to back up her own prejudices. In other words it’s biased junk. And as it’s from California and about e-cigs, who’s surprised?

* – From the tobacco companies’ point of view a 30% market share is actually nothing short of a disaster. This figure only covers convenience stores, because that’s the only sales of e-cigs that are tracked in detail. So we’re talking about corner shops and petrol stations that have a case full of cigalikes beside the cigarette display, and maybe a few bottles of liquid – and they still get less than a third of sales. But where do most vapers buy their stuff? From a vape shop or online. And what percentage of those sales do Big Tobacco have? I’d be surprised if it was 5%.

This post was originally published on E-Cigs Plaza in January 2016, and is reposted here for historical interest.