More Anti-Vaping Lies: Protect Your Family from E-Cigarettes

protect children from e-cigs

San Francisco’s CurbIt campaign raised the bar when it comes to blatantly lying about a lifesaving technology, but the same brand of flagrant nonsense has hit state level with the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH’s) new “fact sheet” entitled “Protect your family from e-cigarettes.” The new document is a rag-tag collection of lies covering much ground – including e-liquid poisonings, the gateway effect, drug use via e-cigs, second-hand vaping (e-cigs emit “pollution,” apparently), chemicals in e-cig vapor and their effectiveness for quitting – like some prohibitionist Gish gallop replete with straw men, half truths and outright demonstrable falsehoods, masquerading as “the Facts You Need to Know.” A more accurate subtitle would be “the unsupported nonsense we want you to swallow hook, line and sinker.”


E-Cigarettes – The “Facts” You Need to Know


The CDPH’s CDC-funded document is the latest reminder that increasing numbers of public health organizations are in no way interested in protecting the public’s health when it comes to smoking and nicotine consumption. In his great piece on the campaign, Dr. Gilbert Ross from the American Council on Science and Health underlines the point that while cigarette smoking is the most important preventable public health problem in the country and e-cigarettes are vastly, undeniably safer than cigarettes, the official line to smokers is consistently, “keep away, don’t even try them, no matter how many times you’ve failed to quit with the older methods.”


They don’t care about the health of smokers; they’d rather push big pharma-funded quitting methods that tie in more closely with the dominant “quit or die” attitude in the anti-smoking movement. Vastly reducing the harm associated with nicotine consumption is better than dying from preventable illnesses, but they’re so entrenched in their view that they can’t admit it. And they’re so intent on sticking to the party line that tossing out science, rationality and morality is nothing to them. It doesn’t take long to realize that the word “facts” is used incredibly tenuously in this document.


So what is claimed? Well, here’s a quick run-down of the statements in the document:


Anti e-cigarette lies

  1. E-cigs are used to “smoke” illegal substances.
  2. They contain nicotine (gasp!) and chemicals (not specified) that can cause cancer, birth defects and more (not specified).
  3. The flavors in e-liquid appeal to children, “who may taste or drink the e-liquid.”
  4. E-liquid is poisonous to swallow. E-cig batteries “are also poisonous if swallowed.”
  5. E-cigs don’t contain as many harmful chemicals as cigarettes.
  6. E-cig aerosol is a mixture of chemicals and particles “that can hurt the lungs just like cigarette smoke.”
  7. It’s not just water vapor.
  8. “E-cigarettes are just as addictive as regular cigarettes.”
  9. People will get addicted to nicotine through vaping then start smoking.
  10. “Studies show that e-cigarettes do not help people quit smoking cigarettes.” But over the counter and prescription meds are “very effective” for quitting.
  11. E-cigs “pollute the air” with tiny particles, and are not safe to “smoke” indoors. “The pollution from e-cigarettes may hurt others.”


There are no references provided, but that makes sense since there is very, very little factual information provided. The tactic is simple: throw a lot of bullshit into a document and see how much of it sticks. The problem is that fully refuting each point takes time to both structure an argument and provide supporting evidence, but hammering out a selection of ridiculous points with no concern for their accuracy is incredibly simple. This is the essence of the “Gish gallop” strategy – talk crap, but talk a lot of crap.


E-Cigarettes – The Actual Facts You Should Know


So rather than writing a whole essay to refute these claims, here is a brief point by point rebuttal (with actual evidence, where appropriate):


  1. Some people do smoke pot from e-cigs, but some people also smoke pot from apples, not to mention cigarette papers or pipes.
  2. Nicotine is necessary, for obvious reasons, and all harmful chemicals detected in e-cigs are only present in vastly lower quantities than in cigarettes. The majority of these are also present in NRT.
  3. Non-vaped e-liquid tastes disgusting, and kids don’t seem interested e-cig flavors.
  4. More kids are poisoned by cigarettes than e-liquid, and poisoning would be the last of my concerns if I’d swallowed a whole lithium ion battery.
  5. This is actually right: e-cigs don’t contain anywhere near the levels of harmful chemicals in cigarettes.
  6. There is no evidence that e-cigs hurt the lungs – minor changes are seen after vaping, but there is no reason to assume genuine risk. Cigarettes are (obviously) much worse.
  7. Nobody in their right mind would claim an aerosol made from mainly PG and VG is “just water vapor.”
  8. Actually the opposite: e-cigs are less addictive than cigarettes.
  9. The gateway effect is unproven and illogical.
  10. Some studies may claim to show that e-cigs aren’t effective (but they tend to be flawed), but many more show that they are pretty darn effective. NRT only works for 5 to 8 percent of smokers.
  11. E-cigs “pollute” in the sense that they release chemicals, but you could say the same about air fresheners, and there is no evidence whatsoever for harm to bystanders from e-cigs.


Of course, the supposedly factual content of a propaganda campaign is only part of the story. All of the emotionally-charged content (“protect your family,” as if e-cigs are going to break your door down and kill your kids), the image of an infant’s hand holding an e-cig, the continued use of “smoke” instead of “vape,” and the new-found penchant for calling vapor “pollution” is part of the game too, aiming to change how people see vaping and drum up more opposition to them through rhetoric alone.


Conclusion – “Continue to Smoke, We’d Rather You Die than Vape”


Smear campaigns like this aim to promote distrust over true understanding, which could easily lead to smokers who’d otherwise switch to vaping deciding to continue smoking or just-converted vapers reconsidering the excellent decision they’ve made. That could result in more people dying of smoking-related diseases than is necessary, yeah, but they literally could not care less. It seems that they would rather us die from lung cancer than switch to vaping, and anyone from the CDPH who disagrees is welcome to (try to) explain how this document doesn’t give that impression.