“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”
Why, you might wonder, do people continue to oppose electronic cigarettes when there is so much evidence proving they can help smokers?
Surely someone surveying the evidence would judge e-cigarettes to lead to more good than harm.
But people are not always logical.
Here’s 4 reasons why some people will always oppose e-cigarettes – and what we can do about it.
1. Inability to Accept Criticism or Condemnation
Think of one of your beliefs, opinions or principles.
Now, imagine someone vigorously attacking that belief. They’re not holding back – it goes beyond facts to calling you a liar and an idiot.
How would you feel?
(I’m sure you can think of an example – especially if you’re a Reddit user!)
I’d imagine, even if logic and reason were included, that the nature of the criticism would leave you angry and defensive.
The Vape Debate
Unfortunately, that’s what happens on both sides of (and even within) the vape debate.
In fact, the debate has long since passed the exchange of different viewpoints and settled into an exchange of insults (and even insulting cartoons!) on both sides.
Perhaps that’s not surprising, as our culture is often based on conflict rather than seeking understanding.
There is a reason why our passion and anger means we are unlikely to win many allies in the vape debate.
And it all lies in psychology.
When a policeman asked “Two Gun” Crowley for his driving licence, the policeman was shot dead.
When the man was finally surrounded by police, he shot at them for an hour.
How did he describe himself, though?
Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one – one that would do nobody any harm.
Al Capone was the same, saying:
I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.
How, wondered author Dale Carnegie, can we expect people to react positively to criticism when even criminals fail to see themselves in the wrong.
Obviously, when other people condemn and criticise us, we should think and consider whether the criticism is justified.
But generally we don’t.
Very few people can take criticism graciously. For most of us, being criticized is uncomfortable at best – de-stabilizing (or even devastating) at worst. The ability to take criticism in stride, it seems, is almost universally elusive.
Source: Psychology Today
So the barrage of criticism many anti-vapers receive is not likely to make them see reason, but only to strengthen their hate of vaping.
So they changed tack.
Instead of begging for money, they gave flowers away.
They would they ask for a donation.
Once people had been given something, it was very hard for them to refuse a donation. That’s because of the principle of reciprocation, a principle that has been found in all cultures across the world.
The opposite is also true. Just as we feel the need to respond to kindness with kindness, we feel the urge to respond to aggression with aggression.
It’s another reason the vape debate is sinking into a mire of insults.
– Charlie Munger, American Investor and Billionaire
When somebody’s self-interest is dependent on the way they think, it can be hard to change their mind.
Unfortunately, that’s often the case in anti-vaping advocacy.
They may be funded by pharmaceutical companies who sell nicotine cessation aids, or by states facing near bankruptcy from the loss of tobacco revenues.
(In fact, Professor Polosa told me that many pro-vaping scientists are putting their future funding hopes and careers at risk by speaking out on behalf of vapers.)
There’s also the problem that if vaping solves the smoking problem, who is going to pay the wages of anti-smoking advocates?
4. The Consistency Principle
“The United States is not perfect.”
Once this statement had been made, a prisoner would be pressed to expand upon the statement.
For example, he might be asked to explain why America was not perfect. Once he had done that, he might be asked to write an essay on it.
Then he might be asked to read his essay out to a discussion group, or his essay would broadcast to the camp with his name.
Crucially, the essay wasn’t (directly) coerced. And once he had put his name to it, and it had been made public, the writer would change his image of himself to match what he had said.
The process was so effective that nearly all American prisoners were said to have collaborated in some way or other.
According to Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, it’s because of the principle of consistency.
We don’t like to change our minds, especially on statements we have made in public.
How does this affect the vape debate?
Well, consider that many of those raging against e-cigarettes have been campaigning against cigarettes for decades.
(In fact, some have speculated that if e-cigarettes had a different name they might have been much more successful.)
In the last 5 years or so campaigners have done the same against electronic cigarettes, often very loudly and publicly.
The very fervour they have done so (often using insults and demeaning cartoons) means that it becomes very difficult for them to change their minds, no matter what evidence they view.
What can we learn
While some people who are against vaping will likely always be opposed to vaping, there is still hope.
Take Louise Ross, for example.
Despite being initially opposed to electronic cigarettes (and expressing her views in a newspaper), she changed her mind when she heard directly from vapers who had been helped by e-cigarettes.
How can we win more converts to our cause?
Here’s 4 ideas.
1. Become a Zen Vaper
“Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also…”
– Matthew: 5
We’ve seen direct criticism and aggression is a very ineffective way to persuade.
Staying calm and respectful is therefore vital when debating electronic cigarettes.
That can be very hard with invective and anger flying around:
But consider all the feuds that have started from a small incident – and escalated to something major.
Staying calm – and logical – is harder than replying with anger, but much more effective – as the reply from SJ the Songbird above shows!
2. Share Heartfelt Stories
While studies and evidence can be powerful, the human mind is conditioned to respond to stories, such as these on the CASAA website.
Dale Carnegie also pointed out that almost all of us want to do the right thing, and suggest that we appeal to the nobler motive.
Perhaps that’s why many politicians, many of whom have received hundreds of heartfelt letters from vapers, have switched from being neutral about vaping to being pro-vaping.
(It also helps that quite a number of politicians now vape!)
So keep on writing those letters, and keep on sharing those stories!
3. Social Proof
If psychology is sometimes against us, sometimes it is also with us.
The millions of people who have stopped smoking tobacco cigarettes because of e-cigarettes is stronger than any study which claims e-cigs don’t work.
And vaping is becoming so common, almost everyone knows somebody who has been helped by e-cigarettes. In fact, when I met one MEP who was cautiously pro-vaping, her staff were able to tell me that they knew people who had been helped by e-cigs.
I am sure that made a difference!
Do you know why one Professor refused to give his title when he met people when travelling?
When people knew he was a professor, they stopped debating with him and instead deferred to his opinions, assuming he was more knowledgeable than them.
People respect the authority of scientists.
And we are fortunate in the vaping world to have scientists who are outspoken in their defence of vaping – many of them have also provided excellent quotes.
Their authority is respected, so use those quotes in the debate!
Obviously, as a vaper I understand when my vaping friends get angry and defensive.
Vaping, according to Professor John Britton, has the potential to save millions of lives. So when some people and organisations try to ban vaping, the device which has helped many of us finally get off smoking, it’s natural to react with anger.
I just wonder whether that anger achieves anything.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.