Will no one rid us of these turbulent priests? Because that’s what the health zealots are, and so are their tame academics – such as Dr Andrea King of the Department of Psychiatry and Behaviour at the University of Chicago, an anti-smoking campaigner who has recently produced research to ‘prove’ that when smokers see vapers puffing away, they’re encouraged to light up another fag of their own; just as they are when they see a fellow smoker.

Somehow, in King’s warped mind – which takes as its sacred texts the edicts of the deeply compromised World Health Organisation (WHO) – this makes vaping as bad as smoking. Somehow seeing others vape may encourage young people to take up tobacco. To which her bizarre solution is: ban vaping.

This in face of evidence showing the relative safety of vaping, and the introduction of smoking-substitutes such as iQos which are not only 90 per cent safer than cigarettes but are finding huge favour among committed old-fashioned-fag addicts.

Such determination by a political lobby to stigmatise any behaviour of which it disapproves – declaring a general anathema – really belongs in the realm of faith, not science. Have they not heard of the lesser of two evils? But before we point out any failings of method in this particular study, it’s worth remembering that all the social ‘sciences’ (for which the proper word might be ‘speculations’) are infected by this type of thinking.

For example, your own correspondent has a friend who teaches a course on ‘the psychology of identity’ at one of London’s ex-polytechnics now called universities. She is, it must be confessed, a very confused woman – but more worryingly, she is spreading terrible mischief among her charges.

Over the years, I have seen two surveys designed by students under her care. One was about misogyny and the first question was along these lines – Have your experiences of sexism made you feel a) upset b) oppressed or c) traumatised? The gist of the other was – Has Brexit made you a) sad b) depressed or c) suicidal?

You get the idea: the initial assumptions inevitably skew the result. Thus, in King’s daft experiment, there were two ‘plants’ among a group of smokers; one primed to take a puff on a new-style vaping thingy – you know the ones – and the other to take a sip of water. Smokers were more likely to spark up after observing the first than after the second.

Let’s put aside the question of how, from a study of 23 people, the good doctor can draw any meaningful conclusion – and simply ask how she can then extrapolate the future behaviour of young people who neither smoke nor vape? And what sort of a control is sipping water? How about if the group had been told it was vodka? And – despite the apparent ‘neutrality’ of water – when is anyone, ever, in a neutral situation?

You might think peddling this kind of twaddle doesn’t matter. (That’s what universities do these days, isn’t it?) The trouble is, this stuff then finds its way into the dodgy dossiers of the WHO – which are then foisted onto naïve politicians who have the power to interfere into our private lives.

Somewhere, someone, right now, is probably manufacturing ‘proof’ that watching people drink shandy encourages alcoholism. (They already have an agenda to ban all fizzy drinks because the diet versions don’t, apparently, reduce obesity.)

The only consolation to draw from this kind of research is that it will eventually disappear up its own fundament. By King’s own method, one could predict that bad so-called science will lead to even worse. Best ban it too, then, to be on the safe side.

by Frank Lee Sugar