The Case for the Vape

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.

S2: Welcome to if that the show about how technology is changing our lives and our future. I’m Shannon Polis.

S3: Hey everyone. Welcome to everyone. We’re coming to you from Slate in Future Tense a partnership between Slate Arizona State University and New America. We’re recording this on the afternoon of Tuesday September time. On today’s show we’ll be talking about the recent epidemic of mysterious vaping illnesses and the real technology that’s to blame for the rise of nicotine addiction in the United States. With journalist Jacob Greer. After the interview my colleague Aaron Mac will join me for don’t close my tabs or we’ll talk about the best things we saw on the web this week. That’s all coming up on if that.

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S4: If you’re concerned about vaping right now. That’s pretty understandable. At least six people have died of a mysterious pneumonia like illness that’s been linked to electronic cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control is now looking into a total of 450 cases. Hospitalization is far from normal a side effect of vaping. It appears that some of these people use black market products containing THC the stuff in pot that gets you high. Nonetheless this has led health officials and doctors to urge everyone to take the opportunity to quit vaping altogether since inhaling chemicals other than air isn’t exactly healthy. It’s a technology that some argue is creating a new generation of nicotine addicts. So why not just ban vaping altogether. We’ll talk to journalist Jacob Greer to learn the arguments for keeping vapes and other kinds of enjoyable nicotine delivery systems around. He’s covered these issues for more than a decade for publications like Slate Reason and The Atlantic. His forthcoming book is the rediscovery of tobacco smoking vaping and The Creative Destruction of the cigarette. Welcome Jacob. Thank you for having me on. Thanks for being here. So to start off you made the argument in a piece for Slate this week that we should not ban vapes in response to the vaping associated illness. Why not just go ahead and ban them if they’re causing so much trouble.

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S5: Well one thing we don’t know is what exactly is causing these illnesses right now. And there’s a couple of reasons to think that it’s probably not the commercial vaping devices that people have been using. One is that commercial vaping devices that deliver nicotine have been around in the United States for over a decade. And right now we have more than 10 million people using them. Yet these illnesses are coming up very suddenly. So the fact that these are clustered both geographically and in Time suggests that something has changed and maybe that’s related to nicotine maybe it’s something else. But it suggests that it’s not something that’s been with us for a while. The other reason is that if you look at a lot of the cases that the CDC has investigated the vast majority of cases report using THC some kind of marijuana vapor device which as you know is illegal in a lot of markets and not very well regulated. So a lot of the investigation is zero weighing in on the thicknesses that may be used on some of these blackmarket cartridges of THC that people use and that may be the cause primarily for what we’re seeing now.

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S2: Why might their response not be to jump in with a bunch of regulation saying OK if we’re not going to ban vaping why not crack down and make the rules for selling vapes really strict to avoid this kind of thing.

S5: First of all they are regulated now. So if the FDA did find out that there was some kind of e-cigarettes that was conclusively linked to causing these illnesses it has the power right now to take that off the market. So if that evidence comes to light it could totally be done. The other risk you have though is if you’re too risk averse and you take all the vapors off the market you might drive a lot of people who are vaping back to smoking. And while there are some unknown risk about vaping we know that smoking cigarettes kills about more than 400000 Americans every year. And so we have right now about 10 million papers in the United States. We know that about 3 million of those vapors are at least as of now ex smokers. And that’s a lot of progress and we don’t want to lose that by taking away what. By most estimates is probably a much safer way they consume nicotine.

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S2: You say by most estimates. So what questions are there still around about how dangerous or not vaping is for any one individual.

S5: Well this is one of the most contentious issues in public health right now. So it’s very difficult to find out for several reasons. And I think the calculus on this is very different about whether you’re talking about a smoker or a non-smoker. Now if you’re a smoker we know that smoking cigarettes is just about the worst thing you can possibly do for your health. So anything we can do to get people to quit smoking is probably a game we we want to encourage that as much as possible. And there is good evidence that vaping is helping people quit smoking. We’ve had a major randomised controlled trial recently where we compared vaping to other different forms of smoking cessation and vaping actually compared very favorably if not better to most ways that people have tried to quit smoking whether that’s an unneeded quit attempt or they go cold turkey or whether they use something like nicotine gum or a patch. So we do have good evidence that vaping is helping people quit smoking and we also have good reasons to think that long term vaping has much lower risk than smoking because much of the damage that comes from smoking cigarettes is not from the nicotine which is a common misperception but rather from igniting tobacco leaves which produces a lot of carcinogens that you can take directly into your lungs. So the estimates differ on how these compare. One of the most optimistic estimates is from Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians in the UK where they say vaping may carry 5 percent or less of the risk of smoking. Some people say that’s too optimistic. That might be true but that does give you an idea of what you might think of if you’re a smoker considering switching course. Yeah of course if you’re a non-smoker The question is different. Now you’re looking at possibly increasing your risk. So my advice and I think just about everyone’s advice who studies this would be if you’re a non-smoker there’s no reason for you to take a vaping even if the risks are low it’s probably not worth what risk might be there.

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S6: So if we have these devices out in the world that are very arguably a great risk management tool for folks who smoke. How do we avoid getting them into the hands of teens and into the hands of other people who shouldn’t be taking up a nicotine addiction in the first place.

S5: Well keeping them out of teens is I think imperative. And there’s lots of different approaches you can take to that one that’s been proposed as possibly raising the age of purchase. Others have been just taking more enforcement at the retail side which the FDA has been stepping up. And another is also just education and being honest with teens about why they shouldn’t use these products because there are still unknowns about how they operate. And I think one question there that Michael Siegel who’s a professor who promotes harm reduction is brought up is that we do have to maintain our credibility. And if teens are told that these are just as bad as smoking then they find out that there’s really good reasons not to believe that’s true then we lose our credibility. And so I think that’s something to be very wary of with adults. I think it may not be as much of a government role to tell people that they absolutely can’t vape although I think we should be very clear about what the potential risk are if you’re going to let harm reduction happen. You might have to tolerate the fact that people do use these devices even if they’re not starting off as smokers. And that’s where a lot of people get uncomfortable because we’ve come to stigmatize nicotine because of its association with cigarettes. But that may not be the best approach for public health going forward.

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S6: So let’s back up a little bit to the eighteen hundreds in the rise of cigarettes in your book you kind of talk about the technology that allowed them to become super widespread and the 18 70s 80s 90s. What was that technology and why was it so crucial to making cigarettes like this mass produced that that everybody used.

S5: Well there were two major changes that came about that made the rise of the cigarette possible because if you look at before nineteen hundred or so most Americans choose their tobacco and the ones you smoked were probably smoking cigars or pipes or they were rolling their own. But this commercial cigarette was a pretty niche product and two things changed. One was how they process tobacco when you picked tobacco leaves one of the first things you have to do is cure them to remove the moisture and the way this was historically done was by direct heat from fires. And this produced a tobacco leaf that was very dark and it’s kind of what you’d associate flavor wise with a cigar today. And these had a very high peach. And what that means is that when you puff on them you absorb the nicotine through your mouth just through your gums. And it’s very unpleasant to inhale it. Starting in the 18 50s or so they started what they called Fluke using the tobacco where instead of burning wood they burned charcoal and then they burned it outside the bonds and directed the heat in with mechanical flues. This produced a much lower acidity leaf that doesn’t really give you much when you puff on it in your mouth but you can inhale it really deeply and that gives you a sudden jolt of nicotine. So this has been compared to the hypodermic needle of nicotine when this was invented because it completely changed the way you consume tobacco. This by itself didn’t make the cigarette possible because cigarettes were still very expensive to make. People had to roll them by hand and it was a very labor intensive process. And then in 1880 there’s a machine called the bond snack machine that gets patented. They completely transform the industry. And this for the first time made it possible to make cigarettes by machine so a human roller that could produce maybe one cigarette and a minute now replaced by a machine that can reduce 500. And so now all of a sudden you have a very addictive very potent and easy to inhale form of tobacco and you have a machine that can turn it out at extremely low cost in massive quantities.

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S2: So it sounds like we kind of from your argument we lump cigarettes and tobacco of all kinds together and one group when they’re really like the cigarette is this highly addictive unique technology.

S5: Yeah exactly. And that’s. And it wasn’t wrong like if you look at tobacco in the 20th century and for anybody who grew up in the 70s or 80s 1960s if you think of tobacco you think of cigarettes because the cigarette came to completely dominate the market. And so for all intents and purposes being anti-smoking being anti cigarette being anti tobacco being anti nicotine this was all one unified cause. Now because of the development of some newer ways of consuming tobacco we were starting to question that. And so that’s creating this really intense ideological divide within people who study tobacco about what role other types of products might have if we got rid of the cigarette.

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S3: OK. We’re going to take a quick break but we’ll be right back with more from Jacob Graff author of the new book The rediscovery of tobacco you talk to them a little bit about tobacco being this enjoyable product along the lines of like wine or fine chocolate.

S6: I’m wondering if you could tell me about some of the upsides of tobacco and about how do you think people should think about it beyond nicotine and beyond cigarettes.

S5: Yeah I come to this from a bit of an unusual background in that I never started smoking young and I’ve never been a cigarette smoker but when I was in my 20s I worked in the coffee industry and I and I was one of those you know very intense baristas who really cares about his coffee and gets very into studying you know the different origins of the beans and how they’re processed and how they’re roasted and how you brew them. And while I was doing this I had one customer in particular who was very sophisticated and had an amazing palate. And I was even a little bit intimidated when I would make espresso for him because he’s clearly knew what he was doing. But every Sunday he would go outside and smoke a cigar with his coffee. And I was just perplexed by this you know because I’d grown up hating tobacco being thought that tobacco was gross. And then we started talking and the way he talked about a cigar reminded me of how I talked about coffee or the origin of the leaf mattered and how it was processed mattered the different sizes different styles. And he invited me to try one. And I loved it. Not in any addictive sort of way but the same way you might love a really nice steak or a glass of wine you’re not going to have it all the time but as an indulgence it’s fantastic and it stimulates conversation. It’s relaxing. You get to enjoy the taste you do enjoy the nicotine as well that is part of it but it enhances your friendship and conversations where time alone or time with a book from my personal perspective my experience with tobacco has been very positive.

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S2: I’m wondering if from that personal perspective you’ve ever been tempted by cigarettes have you ever gone out and bought a pack and said Okay you know if this if this fine tobacco situation is so great maybe you know the cigarette candy bar cheap version would be gone on a weekday.

S5: You know I’ve never bought cigarettes. I have tried them on very rare occasions the first time we ever had a cigarette was actually the night before the Washington D.C. smoking ban took effect. I was out with a bunch of friends and I just decided you know if I’m ever gonna do it tonight’s the night. But going back to what I said earlier about the age of tobacco and different products they really don’t transfer well. So if you’re a cigar smoker you’re used to not inhaling. And so if I just puff on a cigarette I think. What’s the point. This is nothing by the same token if you’re a cigarette smoker who’s become used to inhaling smoke and you take a cigar you’re going to inhale that iph smoke into your lungs are you going to hate it. So you see cigarette smokers who could be very experienced with smoking but they take their first puff on a cigar and just start coughing uncontrollably. So there really is a big difference there. And most people who do get addicted to cigarettes it’s because they start when they’re young. Once you get older most people know enough to stay away and are less tempted by it.

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S6: So it sounds like overall the experience of smoking a cigarette is pretty unique. How did a vape come to mimic it in a way that seems to be satisfying enough to help people quit.

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S5: So this has been a longstanding challenge in the tobacco world so go back to 1976 there was a tobacco researcher named Michael Russell and Dr. Russell is thinking about how we could reduce the harms of smoking without necessarily forcing people to quit which may be an impossible goal. And the dictum that he said was people smoke for the nicotine but they die from the tar which is a little bit of an oversimplification but it’s true for the most part. So the idea is if you could find a way to consume nicotine without everything else that’s produced by a cigarette. The harms could be not eliminated necessarily but definitely lessened. Turns out that’s really hard to do. There’s a kind of an interesting bit of history with R.J. Reynolds in the 1980s where they tried to launch a smokeless cigarette called Premier and they really staked the future of the company on this being a success. But they weren’t quite able to pull it off consumers hated it became a joke on late night TV shows there’s a massive massive flop and you’ve seen the same thing with pharmaceuticals. We’ve got nicotine patches nicotine gums there’s inhalers as medications. So these these are all ways of delivering nicotine but it doesn’t quite mimic what it’s like to smoke a cigarette. So they can help people quit but most people who try to use them still go back to smoking. So it’s a very imperfect solution around 2003 2000 a Chinese chemist named Han lik whose father died from lung cancer. He’s a pharmacist sorry not a chemist but he saw his father die from lung cancer and started thinking about this problem. And he came up with the first commercially viable model but we now think of as an electronic cigarette. And the idea was to have a nicotine solution in a cigarette like device and to use a battery powered heater that would vaporize that solution so you could inhale it still get the feeling of that you get like a rush of smoking a cigarette but without the combustion which is what produces so much of the harm that comes from smoking and so that involved quite a bit over the years so the first devices are what we call Sega like because they look like a cigarette. They might have a little light at the end. The very thin they’re narrow and eventually people started getting away from that because they realized this wasn’t really a perfect substitute. And to deliver nicotine better you need more power. So it became this very interesting community of hackers and moderators online who were exchanging tips and selling their own devices selling them on flavored liquids. They basically started taking things like batteries from laser pointers and flashlights and finding ways to turn those into e-cigarettes devices. And it was a really a bottom up thing. This was not something that came out because big tobacco was creating these devices. This was very very small scale. And then it spread through online communities through small stores. So when people say that vaping is a plot by big tobacco. Well those well big tobacco does own some paper brands. That’s not where the origins were and that’s not where a lot of the community is today.

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S6: And what were those people in that community trying to do. Were they all smokers who were really hoping to be able to quit or were they just interested in the technology of being able to have a fun thing to relax laugh.

S5: I don’t think there’s a universal answer to that. But the one thing I have found that certainly generally true is that the most passionate advocates for vaping tend to be smokers. And if you go online and you look at say Twitter or online groups or Facebook the people who are running vaping accounts and who are very worried about losing access to vaping right now tend to be people who were smokers for a very long time were unable to quit and then feel like vaping is something that is now saving their life that they have this alternative that they find satisfying.

S6: I’ve heard the argument especially in recent days that what you just said is you know maybe true a little bit. But it’s also what Joel really wants you to think that jewel which is you know one of the major companies that produces vapes. Their main goal is to get teens hooked through these delicious flavors and ads and you know they love it when young hot celebrities carry their product around and they’re kind of promoting getting young folks hooked while pushing this narrative that smokers are replacing their products with vapes. What do you make of that.

S5: I think there’s some truth to it. And if you look at if you talk to people in the vaping community they have very mixed opinions about Jewel as a company. There are some things about Jewel that people respect from a technological perspective. You can make the argument that they created a unique device that delivers nicotine in a way that more resembles a normal cigarette. So it might be better for people who are trying to quit. And it’s also very approachable when you buy a jewel you just buy the device and it’s ready to go versus you know having to get into this scene of independent vape shops we have to find the right mouthpiece the right battery the right juice it’s very hard for a newcomer. So those things could be good about Jewel but they’re also viewed as having done some very irresponsible marketing. And if you look at the youth uptake the same things that potentially make Jewel good for smokers also make it particularly appealing for people who may have never smoked or who may be young might be teenagers and to some degree that there may be some unavoidable overlap there. A product that is a good substitute for a cigarette is going to appeal to people who might have taken up cigarettes. But I think you can’t let Jewel off the hook either in that their marketing was irresponsible and they may not have always been very forthcoming with how their marketing their products. If you talk to smaller vapor producers Jewel sometimes come across as the bad guy who by being irresponsible is now jeopardize the entire market by giving vaping a bad reputation. And I think that’s a totally valid critique. And also it’s worth noting that as jewels are facing all the scrutiny they sold 35 fold in their stake to Altria which is the company that of course owns Philip Morris USA that makes Marlboro cigarettes so jewel to some extent is now connected to that sort of more big tobacco range of companies.

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S2: Can you tell us a little bit more what Philip Morris USA is and why it would be bad if they had even more control than they do right now.

S5: Yeah I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about it. There’s some important changes in the way tobacco companies react to regulation and this goes back to 1998 when they signed what they called the Master Settlement Agreement when they were settled lawsuits with all the states. And basically what this did is it changed their strategy to some extent from not necessarily always opposing government regulation but to finding ways to use that regulation to their benefit. And so the next thing they did was in 2009 they actually lobbied in favor of FDA regulation of the industry. And there’s a lot of reasons you might wonder why they did that. But one of the most likely is that they saw this as a way to create barriers to entry so they knew that if it was difficult to enter the tobacco or nicotine market that they would have the resources to get their products on. Well smaller places like the vapor companies we see now would probably be taken off the market.

S6: So those tougher regulations could actually end up allowing products like Jewel to succeed while smaller outlets that provide these may be more difficult to use but ultimately less likely to be marketed towards teens products get pushed out.

S5: Yeah that is definitely one of the potential ironies of the current situation. Few if you look at say some of the things the FDA has said they worry that these closed systems like Jewel have certain advantages but are also because they’re so easy to use the ones that are most likely to get picked up by teenagers and yet at the same time if you look at who’s likely to get through the FDA regulatory process it’s probably a company like Jewel not a small vape shop that’s in your neighborhood that might have been acting very responsibly and checking I.D. at the door and being very careful about who they sell to you.

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S7: OK we’re going to take another quick break and then we’ll continue our conversation with Jacob Greer.

S2: I have a question about the actual mechanics of vaping and how that relates to it being more or less dangerous than cigarettes. I have smoked cigarettes but I have never vapes because once I quit cigarettes I was really eager to not think of nicotine again which is a very smart. But whenever I see people vaping it seems like when I was smoking cigarettes there was this limit on how often you could do it because you can’t smoke inside it’s smelly. You kind of have to find a corner outdoors and with vaping it seems like you can kind of just poke you’re having under your desk or whatever and take a quick puff. And that seems like it has the potential to just be endlessly addictive because you can constantly be giving your system little hits of nicotine. What do you make of that.

S5: Yeah I think that’s entirely valid. It’s almost you know resembles how it was before smoking became against laws and against norms to do inside. You know when you could smoke at your desk for example. So so that is a real concern and I don’t think anyone would deny that vaping has the potential to be addictive. The big question is is it harmful. And nobody is claiming that at zero risk. But the question is is the other long term risk and how big are they. That’s what we need to answer. So I think there are very good reasons now. Like you said if you’re not currently using nicotine there are enough unknowns about vaping that it makes no sense to go out and decide you want to take up fuel for example or take up any kind of vaping device. Know the benefits aren’t there. You know if you need a stimulant. Coffee is fantastic and coffee is totally safe. But if you’re a smoker that’s where I think the focus needs to be and the education needs to be on accurately informing smokers that while there are potential risks with these products it’s still probably much safer than continuing to smoke cigarettes. And if if you can’t quit by other means please consider trying this.

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S6: I think a group of people that probably has every right to be a little bit scared right now are parents of teens who were vaping. What would you say to a parent who is worried about their teen taking up Jewel.

S5: Their fears are totally justified. Look there’s no no doubt that we don’t want teens picking up any kind of nicotine product. They are justified to want more restrictions. To some extent that keep these out of kids hands and we can debate what those restrictions might be. One thing I would point out though is that teenagers do use all kinds of substances. We all know this. And over the time period that vaping has become popular we have seen the youth smoking rate continue to drop. It’s actually cut by about half in the past decade. And so while nobody wants to see their teens vaping we are perhaps seeing a substitute effect where cigarettes are going away. And kids know not to smoke cigarettes. So while they are doing something it is something that is hopefully less harmful than what they have often done in the past. But also note that a lot of the statistics about youth vaping refer only to experimental use and the percentage of teens who are constantly vaping or vaping every day is lower than what you often see cited in reports. And it could change and it is something to keep an eye on if if we start seeing youth smoking rates go up at the same time as vaping rates that’s obviously very concerning. And you do see worries about what they call a gateway effect but trying to figure out the causal relationship and a gateway effect is extremely difficult. And you also see some very over-the-top warnings like I saw PBS produced a segment where they suggested that vaping could be a gateway to heroin and crack. So there’s a lot of this is very very excessive. And one thing I’d also add to this as well we do obviously want to know exactly what’s happening with the outbreak of illnesses right now. But one thing that parents might want to emphasize especially as we learn more is that these do appear to be linked so far primarily to marijuana products. And so they they shouldn’t dilute the warning to stay away from the product that we think is probably linked to these diseases.

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S6: Is there anything else you think we should leave listeners with.

S5: Could you talk about Sweden for a second. Sure. Yes. So I do talk a little bit about Sweden as an example of what the future of vaping might look like in the U.S. because Sweden is the best example we have of harm reduction working. And just like in the U.S. It kind of came about by accident. We’re in the 60s a lot of Swedes Swedish men in particular. Instead of smoking took up snooze which is kind of oral tobacco. Health authorities had very mixed feelings about this. But what’s happened is this news has been engineered to be much much lower risk. In Sweden now has some of the lowest rates of tobacco related mortality in all of Europe by far. It’s a great success story that’s driven not by abstinence but by switching to a safer form of consuming nicotine. So while we do speculate about vaping and we do have a lot to learn about it I would point out that we do have an example of harm reduction working in the real world. We can take that as a positive cue that we might consider for the US.

S3: Well so much for coming on. We really appreciate it. Yeah. Thanks for having me.

S5: This is an interesting conversation that will be ongoing for a long time I think.

S3: All right. We’re going to take one final quick break. And then Aaron Mac will join me for don’t close my tabs. We’ll talk about the best things we saw on the web this week.

S4: OK. Now it’s time for don’t close my tabs. Joining me now is my colleague Aaron Mac who will be hosting the show next week haired nation. How are you. Good. How are you. I’m all right. What’s your tab for this week.

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S8: My tab this week is an online interactive that the Urban Institute think tank put out just this week based on President Trump’s prison bill from last year. So the first EP act which is the name of the law has gotten a lot of attention for you know easing prison sentences and basically releasing people early. But what’s been somewhat overlooked is the fact that there’s an algorithm at the heart of the bill that is supposed to predict recidivism rates. So basically the way it works is that you enter a bunch of factors that an inmate. So you know the gender type of conviction the age of conviction et cetera et cetera and the algorithm then determines whether they are high or low risk. And then if they’re low risk they’re allowed to enter a program that will allow them to be released early so the Bureau of Prisons just released more details on how this algorithm is going to work. And based on that the Urban Institute made this online tool where you can actually put in certain factors and see kind of how the algorithm works and how certain things will affect how long you are in prison or whether or not you can get released early. So basically a point system that you want to get the lowest score possible on and you can very quickly see that in certain circumstances you know an infraction or misconduct can wipe out a good chunk of your progress. I think it also underlines how strange it can sort of be to reduce a person to a set of points and factors especially when you’re talking about something so important as like the amount of time you’re gonna be in prison. So I would recommend checking out the tool just to kind of see how an algorithm judges people and look at its limitations.

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S6: Was there anything really surprising that you found when you were applying around the tool.

S8: Yes. So I mean one of the things is that they have two different models for men and women just because I think based on data showing that the reoffending rates for men and women are slightly different. There’s also a pretty big emphasis on static factors so the way this works is that there are factors that you can’t change that you will always have that factor into the score or select your age when you’re convicted your gender stuff that you can’t really change in this dynamic factors so like how many programs you’ve done to rehabilitate yourself you know how long it’s been since your last infraction. So those things can change and it seems like the static factors are things you can’t change are weighted somewhat heavily. And it’s kind of surprising to see that it is pretty hard to kind of get your score up if you have a certain amount of predisposed factors. There still isn’t a lot of aren’t a lot of details about the the algorithm out. This is just based on a sort of preview that the bureau of prisons released. But there’s been a lot of concern because it seems like a lot of conservative anti prison reform groups have been put in charge of many aspects of this algorithm which makes people worried because it seems to sort of go against the spirit of the bill which is to reduce our prison population and be a little less tough on crime like kind of do away with that mentality. But there does seem to be some slip ups along the way.

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S2: Yeah I think this is really interesting because we kind of have this sentence that algorithms make choices like how long someone’s prison sentence should be. And that’s bad. But I’m looking at the page right now and it puts it in really concrete terms of you know if you go from age of first conviction thing over 35 zero points to being under 18 that adds 15 points it makes it much more tangible.

S8: Yeah. That’s why I think the tool is valuable because you can kind of see you know how they’re making these calculations about people and I know the Urban Institute like they have some issues with the way they’re going about this algorithm but they generally at least some of the people there generally support algorithms because they believe that even though there can be bias you know embedded in the algorithms are still less biased than people although other people argue that it actually just kind of inflates or mixed bias more severe. So you can kind of see how certain certain questions could be somewhat racially skewed so what’s your tap for this week.

S2: My job is a short piece from the cut called lemons have replaced my deodorant home. It is a first person piece about a woman who replaced her deodorant with lemons and I wrote about aluminum deodorant and natural deodorant earlier this summer for my Slate column well actually and I discovered that even though aluminum deodorant which is you know antiperspirant I should say which is the stuff that you use to stop yourself from sweating even though that’s totally safe to use and doesn’t lead to things like breast cancer increased toxins or any other bad stuff that you might think happen if you smear like a little bit of aluminum on your body every day. This idea has been going around for years and years and years that it’s better to switch to all natural products quote unquote.

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S9: And this article just kind of illustrated the silliness or on that for me in an extreme of not only going from an antiperspirant that steeped in works to a product that only sort of work to do notarize your armpits a little bit that might be more expensive. So going to this thing that actually can actually sting your armpits and she says is more expensive than a luxury deodorant but is nonetheless embracing because he know who can argue with something that’s totally natural.

S2: I just found it really amusing and kind of a very pure example of holding up a natural product to your own detriment above this technology that we have that works well and is affordable and you know nonetheless sometimes we choose not to use Wait so you said it sort of works like it’ll cut down a little bit you know a lemon does smell good and it can work a little bit to overpower the smell of you know microbes on your armpits.

S10: I feel like there’s a similar sort of conversation around like GM those or something.

S8: It seems like there is a little bit of a federalization of organic products which sometimes is merited and sometimes just seems like you’re you’re eating something organic for the sake of being organic because it sounds vaguely healthier.

S2: Yeah. People forget that all natural products aren’t necessarily good for you or better. And that you know quote unquote unnatural products can sometimes have the exact same ingredients in them as natural products.

S10: Is weird and I’m wondering how people just kind of find this out like as someone just like rubbing stuff on their armpits just to see like what a worker.

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S2: I can imagine just like going home and going around my kitchen and being like olive oil.

S3: No no no citrus. Sure. All right. That’s our show. You can e-mail us that if then at Slate dot com. Send us your tech questions show and get suggestions or just say hi. You can also follow me on Twitter. I’m at Cham palace. Thanks again to our guests Jacob Greer and thanks to everyone who has left us a comment or a view on Apple podcasts or whatever platform you use to listen. We really appreciate your time.

S11: If there is a production of Slate in future times a partnership between Slate Arizona State University and New America. If you want more if Slate’s tech coverage sign up for the future tense newsletter every week you’ll get news and commentary on how tech advances are changing the world in ways small and large. Sign up at Slate dot com slash future news.

S3: Our producer is Justin D right. Thanks also to Rosemary Belson who engineered for us in D.C.. We’ll see you next week.