“What’s Not to Like” is a Poor Rhetorical Strategy

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Michael Siegel’s article “What’s Not to Like?” in the New York Times Op-Ed section is an argument in favor of electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigs. While Siegel makes some important points about the use of electronic cigarettes as a successful means to quit and extinguish a smoker's behavior, his organizational and rhetorical strategies get lost almost immediately. Siegel often ops for vague criticism of those opposing the use of electronic cigarettes instead of evidential proof to support his claims. Siegel’s article, “What’s Not to Like” is an ineffectual argument in favor of electronic cigarettes due to his poor rhetorical strategy and unsupported claims which undermine any of his potentially valid points.

From the very first paragraph, Siegel loses his reader’s trust with a statement that reads, out of context, like an argument against electronic cigarettes while he is actually trying to advocate for them. He writes, “In other words, the hundreds of thousands of electronic cigarette users in the United States are smokers who, if only they stopped using e-cigarettes, would successfully quit smoking” (Siegel). Taken out of context, this statement completely undermines Siegel’s argument. While he means to point to what he calls “the ridiculous” argument of this statement, posing it as such leads to confusion on part of the reader right from the very start.

After the blunder in Siegel’s introductory paragraph, which consists of two poorly constructed sentences, he goes on to say, “This is a ridiculous argument and those advancing it are not living in reality” (Siegel). Statements like this one provide no evidential proof to support his claim in favor of electronic cigarettes and only serve to downgrade his professionalism and the merit of his argument. Simply bashing the opposing viewpoint is not an effective way to gain audience trust. When Siegel does introduce statistics of those who attempt to quit using tobacco, his argument again falls flat, as the information provided does not prove his point. He writes, “The truth is that only 3 percent of smokers who want to quit will do so successfully in any given year. Thus, the vast majority of smokers who try to quit using electronic cigarettes are people who would not have otherwise quit.” (Siegel). Siegel cannot claim that the 3 percent that does quit did so by using electronic cigarettes; therefore, this information is nil and adds nothing to support his argument.

The logic of Siegel’s argument is again shaky when he suggests that if smokers hadn’t previously been able to quit, it is clear that e-cigarettes were the only means to make it possible. He arbitrarily claims, Since they haven’t found other ways to stop smoking, it is clear that these are not people who would have suddenly been able to quit if only they had not tried e-cigarettes” (Siegel). Again, Siegel has no proof of the previous methods employed by these smokers--an unidentified group that we can only assume is the aforementioned 3 percent--which makes the reader distrust him even more.

It is not until the fourth paragraph in this poorly constructed argument that Siegel makes any claims that might gain support from his reader. By this point, he has already lost the touch of his audience and undermined any hope at gaining our trust. The paragraph that offers a link to so-called scientific proof of the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes should have been the starting point of his argument, but, unfortunately for Siegel, it arrives way too late in the game. Even if we do agree with the overall premise of his argument at this point, that electronic cigarettes are beneficial, it is not probable that any reader would give credit to claims made by this author.

Siegel’s other main point, which is lost in his failure to execute a coherent argument, is that opposition to electronic cigarettes has no grounding for their dismissal of this product. Unfortunately, Siegel has no grounding for his argument either. Perhaps the reader could have been on his side when he points to “ridiculous” claims, which would have been better described as hypocritical. Of course it makes little sense to reject a product that imitates smoking solely based on this characteristic, which Siegel does point out when he comments, “In spite of this supportive scientific data, many anti-smoking groups oppose these products because they are blinded by ideology: they find it difficult, if not impossible, to endorse a behavior that looks like smoking, even though it is literally saving people’s lives.” The life-saving potential of the product Siegel is advocating should have been one of the opening points to his argument.

Other benefits to the use of electronic cigarettes, Siegel does note, include the lack of second-hand smoke, however, this information is left floating in space without support in the form of research or statistics to support it.

Finally, Siegel introduces a final plea for the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) support and product research to ensure that electronic cigarettes are not dangerous or have any adverse effects. This is detrimental to Siegel’s argument in that it suggests that these products aren’t safe for use, therefore making the reader hesitant to believe in the benefits of such a product. He writes, “Regulation is needed to ensure that these products are as safe as possible and that they are manufactured with appropriate quality control standards” (Siegel). While it is true that any legitimate product should be tested for safety and quality standards, Siegel makes it sound like these products are something purchased off the black market and not a readily available alternative to smoking. His final point, though, does give him some credibility when he states that FDA endorsement would help to encourage the use of a product that has such life-saving potential. Once again, this point is lost as is comes far too late and after too many blunders in his argument.

Siegel’s article entitled “What’s Not to Like?” can be answered with: “a poor rhetorical strategy,” which this article exhibits. His vague opening paragraphs do not hook the reader or gain our trust. Siegel’s somewhat valid points are undermined by introducing them way too late in the argument and not providing evidence for the claims. This article is not effective due to both its organizational strategy, or lack thereof, and lack of proper rhetoric that might have gained reader support for his argument about electronic cigarettes.

Work Cited

Seigel, Michael. “What’s Not to Like?” The New York Times.