From Dick Puddlecote:
“there are potentially more cancer-forming chemicals within e-cigarettes than you’ve actually got in cigarettes per se themselves.”
There are also potentially more cancer-forming chemicals in one of my cheese sandwiches. There are also potentially more cancer-forming chemicals in the dust on my floor. There are potentially more cancer-forming chemicals in absolutely anything anyone cares to name. In fact anything has the potential be something else. My kitchen knives have the potential to be used to kill people, or to cut their heads off. My hammer has the potential to be a murder weapon. So do my scissors. And my pencils.
There are any number of potential threats everywhere. One might even say that there an infinite number of potential threats. But a potential threat is not an actual threat. And in actual fact, e-cigarettes don’t contain any carcinogens whatsoever.
What Dr Rae is really saying is that “we don’t know of any cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigarettes, but they can potentially contain them (and this is why we want them banned).” He may as well have said that “we don’t know of any cancer-causing chemicals in Sainsbury’s Apple Pies, but they can potentially contain them (and this is why we want them banned).” If we can ban things for what they might potentially contain, rather than what they actually contain, we have carte blanche to ban absolutely anything we like.
Leaving out the “potentially”, Dick Puddlecote understood Dr Rae to be saying something a bit different:
He is actually claiming that e-cigs are more capable of causing cancer than cigarettes themselves. A statement that is so comprehensively stupid that it consequently calls into question the veracity of the original 1950s research linking smoking to lung cancer, surely.
Perhaps Dr Rae is making such a claim, given that he seems to think that a potential threat should be taken just as seriously as an actual threat.
Which raises the question of whether the mental disorder underlying the sort of fear-mongering that the likes of Dr Rae engage in is one of systematically conflating potential dangers with actual dangers. The release of large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has the potential to alter the Earth’s climate, and so this potential threat is transformed into an actual threat. All men are potentially rapists and child molesters, and so they actually all are rapists and child molesters. Smoking tobacco is potentially a cause of lung cancer, heart disease, etc, etc, so smoking actually causes lung cancer. All you need do to discover the actual danger in anything is to find a potential danger in it.
Incidentally, it hasn’t been the wild claims made against e-cigarettes that has struck me as being “so comprehensively stupid that it consequently calls into question the veracity of the original 1950s research linking smoking to lung cancer.” No, it was claims about the dangers of passive smoking that did that some 10 years ago.