by Carl V Phillips
The question in the title (h/t to Rolygate for posing it to me) is intriguing. If cigarettes had been used for less than a decade, and had seen the rate of uptake that e-cigarettes have seen, how much would we know about their health effects right now, and how does that compare to what we know about e-cigarettes?
For purposes of this exercise, assume that we have current general epidemiology knowledge and methods (ex knowledge about cigarettes per se, of course). That is more complicated a counterfactual than you might realize because of how entangled the early history of epidemiology was with research on cigarettes. However, even if semi-modern methods got a later start, epidemiology has evolved so ridiculously slowly that it is not unreasonable to assume we could have about the same level of development. We would have to assume that there would not…
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