Perverse Psychology

Posted 24th June 2020 by Dave Cross
Michelle Minton is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. She has fought vaping’s corner for many years and frequently, forensically dissects the actions of governments around the world on their treatment of tobacco harm reduction. In her latest outstanding essay, Michelle explains how anti-vaping campaigners have created the so-called youth vaping “epidemic”.

Michelle specialises in consumer policy, covering regulatory issues that include gambling, tobacco harm reduction, cannabis legalization, alcohol, and nutrition. She has authored numerous studies, including topics like the effectiveness and unintended consequences of sin taxes and history of gambling regulation.

Talking to VIDA News about the work, she said: “It’s an idea that’s been percolating for a while. I usually start my research with a question, I look at something in the world and say, ‘that’s weird, what’s happened or where did this come from?’”

Michelle saw a rapid decline in vaping over 2016-2017, by about 30%, but then there was the dramatic spike reported in 2018 that continued into 2019. What struck her as odd about this turnaround was that it came at the same time the attacks on vaping in the media increased, States were implementing stricter regulations, and the FDA was sticking hysterical posters in school toilets.

  • FDA Declares War On Vaping, 2018 – [link]
  • FDA To Ban Online Sales, 2018 – [link]
  • Vape Worms, 2018 – [link]
  • New FDA Farce, 2019 – [link]

“JUUL had pulled back on flavours,” she continued. “They’d pulled a lot of flavours from the market, and advertising from vape companies had been pulled back as well.”

When Michelle started looking at how spending from the Food and Drug Administration correlated with youth use she had the idea that it could link to child development psychology, in particular the concept of “reactance” – or more simply, rebellion.

Cigarette smoking is a lethal habit that kills approximately half of those who sustain it over their lifetime,” she writes. “Evidence from researchers around the world underscores the prospect that e-cigarettes are the greatest public health opportunity in a generation. Yet, anti-tobacco advocates have only intensified efforts to malign and prohibit these potentially lifesaving products.

Unable to legitimize their agenda with scientific evidence, those seeking to eradicate e-cigarettes have turned to that last resort into which all moral crusades invariably retreat: fear over child welfare.”

A deeply interesting take on events, Michelle explains how, “it was not the vapor industry that reignited youth interest in vaping; it was anti-vaping advocacy. Evidence from developmental psychology, the determinants that push youth toward risky behaviours, and the reasons public messaging campaigns can backfire all indicate that the most viable explanation is not that more youths began vaping in spite of anti-vaping campaigns, but because of them.”


  • Perverse Psychology: How Anti-Vaping Campaigners Created the Youth Vaping ‘Epidemic’” by Michelle Minton – [link]
  • Perverse Psychology” as a downloadable PDF – [link]
  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute – [link]
  • Don’t Tread on Me! Psychological Reactance as Omnipresent”, Psychology Today – [link]
  • VIDA News Facebook – [link]
  • VIDA News Twitter – [link]
  • VIDA News Instagram – [link]

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

Image by flormarthe from Pixabay

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