On Toronto Police at Pride

So. Speaking as someone who identifies as queer (NOT that this should matter because purity politics are the worst), I think Pride Toronto’s decision to ban policemen in uniforms from pride this year is pretty gross.

I can’t believe that after all the outcry about Rob Ford not going to pride, we’re sticking up our noses at the thought of the establishment showing their support for us. I don’t understand how dialogues and reparations can even begin if one side refuses to even be in the same space as the other. Common ground is absolutely essential for building rapport, and we’re destroying what little we have.

And if you believe that all policemen live in insular, hate-filled bubbles, why would you want to deny them a chance to leave it? And if you think that the awful relationship that police have historically had with the queer community justifies banning them, why doesn’t this argument extend to mayors and prime ministers?

Regarding queer people who have had a bad experience with policemen and feel genuine fear at having to be near them, I absolutely empathize. They’ve constantly turned a blind eye to our pain, and punished us disproportionately through the over-surveillance of places that we gather.

And if it was any other city, I would think that that’s a pretty big deal. But look, Toronto is really, fantastically, gay. The pride parade isn’t your only option during pride month, to celebrate being you. There’s dozens of really cool smaller events going on through the month, those that aren’t as corporate and visible as the parade. I encourage you to go to them, even if you don’t specifically need a safe space away from cops. But policemen had one event that they had to go to and participate in. That number is now zero. This isn’t progress.

I remember the world being amazed at the wonderful photos of our rainbow-decked police force every summer, a symbol of Canada’s real, amazing progressiveness. As a young person coming to terms with my queerness, it meant the world to me that my country and my institutions would support me, even if my family wouldn’t.

The thought that these photos won’t happen this year breaks my heart. I don’t like the messages that this sends – that police and uniforms aren’t to be trusted by the queer community*, and that the queer community is picky and difficult to work with (in the case of any organization or institution that was thinking of helping us).

If you agree with me, help me make a difference. Take a moment out of your day and jot out a tweet or shoot a Facebook message at Pride Toronto. give arguments, let them know that the people against this decision aren’t just racists and Facebook trolls. pride’s still a while away, i’m sure we can change this if we put our minds to it.

*Ok look, this is true. I don’t want to make any excuses for the gross negligence that is the way the Toronto Police Force treats the queer (and other minority) communities. But I don’t think the answer lies in a withdrawal from their services.

On Incredibly Botched Cost-Benefit Calculations

So one morbid hobby that I have is using QALY measures to calculate roughly how many people any single policy decision would kill. Thankfully I don’t get to indulge it much since most policies that I encounter aren’t completely terrible, but today, my friends, we have truly been blessed.

So the FDA recently imposed a bunch of e-cigarette regulations, including forbidding them from advertising true claims about how they are safer than cigarettes, stopping vape shops from helping their customers assemble and fix vapes, forbidding companies from making them safer or more pleasant to use, and having such a stringent and expensive review process that it’s pretty much the equivalent of banning them completely after a 2 year grace period.

Because when doing the cost-benefit calculations, they assigned no value to smokers who will die because they reverted back from vaping to smoking cigarettes.

Alright, lets do the math. Let’s do this very, very conservatively.

So we know that 

smoking is associated with 1.9 fewer years of QALE for U.S. adults.

A reuters/ipsos poll tells us that 10% of US adults vape (

(i.e. 24.5 million of 245 million), and also provides us with this helpful graphic to work with:

image

(source)

From this we know that 30% of that 24.5 million has used it to successfully quit using conventional tobacco. That is 7.35 million people who used to smoke cigarettes, and then quit because of e-cigarettes.

Is vaping harmful? According to this post by the Scientific American, 

Given the long and sorry list of harmful and toxic chemicals in cigarettes, vaping is almost certainly less dangerous to your health.

But also (from the same article):

There is evidence that e-cigs deliver some toxic stuff of their own such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), nitrosamines (linked to cancer) and lead (a neurotoxin). Though the toxicant levels of e-cigs may be “9–450 times lower than in cigarette smoke,” [emphasis mine] as this study suggests, levels of formaldehyde and metals have been found to be comparable to or higher than those found in conventional cigarettes. Silicate particles, which are a cause of lung disease, have also been found in e-cigarette vapors. 

Hmm, so definitely less harmful than smoking, but by how much? Let’s lowball, like, a lot, and say that there’s only a 50% difference in harm levels between vapes and cigarettes (so that 1 vape session is as toxic as half of a cigarette). Realistically, the difference in safety between vapes and traditional cigarettes is likely much larger.

And let’s lowball a lot again, and say that only half of the 7.35 million people who used vapes to quit their smoking habit revert back to smoking cigarettes. So 3,675,000 people. And again, realistically, the number is likely larger than that.

(I’m sure that there are probably actual numbers for these, but I’m just too lazy to look them up. I may edit this later on to reflect research findings.)

Alright, it’s time for the math.

Our parameters:

  • 1.9 fewer QALYs for American adult smokers
  • 3,675,000 people reverting to smoking
  • 50% risk difference between vaping and smoking

it’s fairly simple to calculate the damage in terms of QALY:

image

Plugging in our numbers gives us a total loss of 13,965,000 QALYs.

Assuming an average lifespan of 80 years, that’s a loss of 174,562.5 lives.

Remember that we’ve been pretty conservative in estimating our variables, so the actual cost in lives is likely much more. And also, this equation only accounts for people who started smoking e-cigarettes. So future Americans who start smoking because e-cigarettes stopped being commercially available are also not represented here.

So, yeah. The sheer stupidity of this is frankly rage-inducing. Please don’t do this if you do cost-benefit analyses professionally.

I’m reminded of this pretty good quote from the Discworld series:

“I have never laid a finger on anyone in my life, Mr Pump. I may be–– all the things you know I am, but I am not a killer! I have never so much as drawn a sword!”

“No, You Have Not. But You Have Stolen, Embezzled, Defrauded And Swindled Without Discrimination, Mr Lipvig. You Have Ruined Businesses And Destroyed Jobs. When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve. Your Actions Have Taken Money From Those Who Had Little Enough To Begin With. In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs. For Sport, Mr Lipvig. For Sport. For The Joy Of The Game.”

― Terry Pratchett, Going Postal