Reductio Ad Absurdum

Posted 25th November 2015 by Dave Cross
‘Reductio ad absurdum’ is a technique used in arguments where one person will take the other’s ideas and extend them to ridiculous extremes in order to prove they can’t work. Mark Drakeford, as part of his continuing war on vaping, is acting like he’s arguing with himself in a locked room. His latest contributions couldn’t be more preposterous.

According to the Cardiffian, Drakeford “has accused E-cigarette companies of ‘ruthlessly targeting children’ as he moves to bring them into line with conventional cigarettes.” It is as if the man is on a mission to see if he can out-stupid his previous comments on the topic.

The Welsh minister has made it clear he holds no store actual facts relating to vaping as he ignored the findings of the Welsh government’s own health survey. This is the man who has stated: “you start with an e-cigarette and end up with a real cigarette and there is evidence of that.”

He continues his commentary in a similar vein with the Cardiffian: “The E-cigarette industry has targeted children absolutely ruthlessly and there is no ambiguity about that. Targeting them in terms of advertising and flavours, with over 10,000 varieties including bubble gum. They have gone out of their way to target children.”

It is staggering that following all of the evidence presented to the Welsh Committee for Health and Social Care that he can still labour under the misapprehension that his comments bare any relation to fact. Gum, bubble or otherwise, is a product that has been marketed to all age brackets and includes children like Sir Alex Ferguson among its famous users. It is a product that caused journalists to attack other adult users; it is not the preserve of children.

It’s not just flavours enjoyed by adults that the puritanical Drakeford wants to protect children from – he’s still banging the drum about “normalisation”. Without any supporting data, he said: “One of the fantastic things we have achieved over the last 30 years was moving smoking from something that was regarded as a sophisticated sign of being part of the in-crowd to something people understand to not be a socially advantageous thing to do. When you look back it was everywhere and now it’s not. E-cigarettes risk renormalising it.”

“My attitude as Health Minister has to be, if the evidence points in two ways, and there is credible evidence to say this could do harm as well as good, I have to move to address the harm” – but where is the credible evidence that it does harm? It doesn’t exist. Plenty of evidence was presented to the committee demonstrating that there’s no gateway effect or normalisation taking place; smoking rates continue to fall.

No evidence, and yet the man continues his mission to look increasingly more ridiculous. The Daily Record reports that his plans are going to encompass all work environments, including those people working from home. In a move described as “unenforceable” by the Welsh Lib Dems and Conservative party, Drakeford said “a court would decide if receiving one work phone call or checking emails in your lounge after hours was breaking the law.”

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Lib Dems said: “The Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to fight against these ridiculous and ill-thought out proposals. We believe in taking an evidence-based approach, rather than Labour’s attitude of banning things just for the sake of it.”

“If Labour’s claims that e-cigarettes were a gateway to tobacco were correct, we should be seeing people who have never smoked a cigarette before using e-cigs now,” said Williams. “In fact, the opposite is true: Labour’s survey couldn’t find a single e-cigarette user who’s never smoked a cigarette before.”

Kirsty has decried Drakeford’s moves from the outset: “the evidence seems to be mounting against the Welsh Labour Government. The consensus seems to be that there are substantial gains to be had from promoting the use of e-cigs, especially for those using them instead of traditional tobacco cigarettes.”

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker