Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Guilt by Association

Nicotine has gained a reputation as a harmful substance through its association with tobacco. The reasoning goes:
* Tobacco is harmful to human health.
* Tobacco contains nicotine.
* Therefore, nicotine is harmful to human health.

Psychologically, this is very persuasive reasoning. But as the song says, “It ain’t necessarily so.” In terms of logic, this reasoning is a “fallacy of division.” Just because a fact is true about a thing does not prove that the fact is true for all of the parts of that thing. Wikipedia uses the example of a Boeing 747:

1. A Boeing 747 can fly unaided across the ocean.
2. A Boeing 747 has jet engines.
3. Therefore, one of its jet engines can fly unaided across the ocean.

The truth of the matter is that nicotine is not the really dangerous chemical in cigarettes. According to researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, “Cigarette smoke contains many harmful chemicals, and it is these, not nicotine, that are responsible for the heart attacks, cancer, and lung disease.”

Their Advice on using over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy- patch, gum, or lozenge- to quit smoking can be downloaded from

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