the thought gang

an attempted place

Tag: free speech

On @JohnRashton74

John Rashton is head of the Faculty of Public Health and he had a bad night on twitter, for which he has now apologised:

Rightly so, I think. Although I think that it’s his scaremongering about e-cigs that he should reconsider and apologise for. Being inappropriate on twitter is less than ideal, but scaring people away from a safe alternative to smoking (should they be so inclined as to want one) is not what a Public Health professional should be doing.

Responses to his apology (from vapers, one assumes) were uncharitable. Let’s gloss over those which were every bit as abusive as his own tweets..

More often, it was suggested that he should lose his job over it all..

Politely, that’s bollocks. He should probably be reprimanded over it, but whilst he states his employer in his twitter profile, it’s not an official account. The views expressed are his own. If he thinks someone is a cunt then I defend his right to say so. He should no more lose his job over it than any of the people abusing him back should lose theirs.

No no no. If he should lose his job, it would be over using his position to spread evidence-free rubbish about the dangers of e-cigs. He’s free (professionally or personally) to support their banning in ‘public’ places, because that’s a policy opinion. He’s not free to make up reasons in support of that policy. Making the e-cog debate about the people involved in it is a common approach. It’s unavoidable. The ‘antis’ want to make it all about those in favour of a liberal approach being shills of Big Tobacco, the pro-e-cig crowd want it all about the ‘antis’ being shills of Big Pharma. Motives matter, of course, but mud-slinging does not. Nor does a gleeful celebration of an opponent having a bad night on twitter.┬áThat conduct raises questions for his employer, but if someone who goes on the radio to lie about e-cigs is fired for swearing, rather than for his real ‘crimes’, then nobody wins.

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E-cig bans vs Free Speech

What a wonderful comment…

Cyto|12.25.13 @ 11:00PM|#

Their arguments in favor of this ban set up an interesting legal possibility. By arguing that e-cigarettes must be banned because they resemble smoking real cigarettes and therefore encourage smoking by making it seem “OK” to smoke they are saying that their ban is a ban on an expression of an idea, not a ban on a dangerous behavior.

That’s pretty interesting. A challenge to a regulation on free speech grounds – and on the grounds that the government intends to suppress speech that no one intends to make. Nobody intends to make a statement that smoking is acceptable by using an e-cigarette. They don’t intend to express any idea at all – they are just living their lives. And the state is saying that simply living your life as you see fit is an expression of an idea that must be suppressed. Interesting.

I cannot say whether this is really a ‘legal possibility’, but I love the line of thinking.