Top 10 Worst Examples of E-Cig Nonsense in the Media
The media has a difficult job to do. No, seriously. You see: facts, being unflinching in their honesty and unequivocal in their implications, don’t always lend themselves well to a “gripping” news story. E-cigarettes are the perfect example of the conundrum this puts journalists in.
Here, they have potentially life-saving harm reduction devices for cigarette-smokers which, whilst not being entirely flawless, are undoubtedly much, much safer than smoking tobacco. This wouldn't sell newspapers – in fact, it would just sell e-cigarettes – so the only thing the media can do to retain the attention of readers is to pretend they are going to kill you.
Here are ten of the worst examples of hack-journalists spewing verbal diarrhea regarding e-cigarettes. And remember, there are tons and tons more lurking in the desperate corners of the media – this is just the tip of the moronic iceberg.
10: Fox23: E-cig = IED? Seriously?
Oklahoma City’s Fox 23 originally ran a story on the 16th of April following an explosion at a city apartment complex, claiming that an “IED” had caused the accident. Later in the article, it confirmed that they were actually referring to an e-cigarette’s lithium battery.
The fact that the term IED (improvised explosive device – as used by terrorists) was used when the explosion was known to have been caused by a lithium battery (the same kind you’ll find in your cell phone, tablet, laptop and numerous electronic devices) is very telling. It wasn't a mistake; it was a sensationalist method of generating interest in the story and an unsubstantiated swipe at e-cigs. All lithium batteries can explode – so is your cell phone an IED too? Thankfully, this monumental piece of garbage has since been corrected (and the mix-up seemingly blamed on local fire officials).
9: The Guardian: A Disappointing Display of Idiocy
Unlike repugnant UK newspaper the Daily Mail (more from them later), the Guardian has actually published positive stories about e-cigs in the past. Unfortunately, this didn't stop them from airing this speculative piece of drivel written by Tom Riddington. The article covers all of the ridiculous bases you’d cover if you hated e-cigs and decided to compile evidence to support your conclusion and nothing else. This includes the results from the widely-debunkedFDA analysis, the assertion that they’re marketed towards children (because apparently adults don’t like chocolate or other sweet flavors at all), and the classic “unregulated” accusation which completely ignores manufacturer’s standards and standard consumer safety regulations.
Another favored anti e-cig argument is epitomized by the Lexington Herald-Leader article written by director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy. She continually beats the tired old drum, thumping away about safety claims being “not supported by science” as if she was actually incapable of researching her claims. If only somebody had invented Google so she could have easily found that there were numerous pieces of extensive research (read top 10 studies on e-cigs), as well as plain old common sense, which strongly contradict her ill-informed propaganda.
7: Borneo Post: E-Cigs are a Gateway to Cigarettes
This article from the Borneo Post is a terrifying reminder that whilst the western media may spout nonsense about e-cigs, it isn't an isolated phenomenon. The argument is pretty much entirely contained in this quote from a doctor, “And once school children get hold of the product to try, they will gradually get into the habit of smoking real cigarettes, it is a chain psychological reaction.” Saying e-cigs is a gateway to tobacco cigarettes is a blatant misunderstanding of the intention: harm reduction. It’s like saying methadone is a gateway to heroin abuse.
Forbes is obviously more interested in the business-end of e-cigs, but that didn't stop them from spouting mindless accusations in this article from entrepreneurship contributor Ilya Pozin. Aside from incorrectly insinuating that nicotine is harmful and redundantly pointing out that “many regulatory agencies and health experts” aren't sold on the safety of e-cigs (linking to an article which acknowledges the Royal College of Physicians’ support for e-cigs and only offers criticism from ASH), the article treads familiar territory, raising concerns for the children.
It claims that the flavors of e-cigs will make them appeal to children and also adds that the online retailers allow people of any age to buy them. Well, that’s true, if that child happens to have lied about his age (e-cig companies don’t sell to minors) and stolen a credit card to make the purchase.
The Tribune Democrat recently published a mindless, prohibitionist editorial raising “smoke alarms” regarding the dangers of e-cigarettes. They cover all of the bases in the article, citing the FDA analysis, “lack” of evidence for their effectiveness and the “gateway” argument. Perhaps somewhere on the internet there is a formula for nonsense journalism regarding e-cigs, and if there is, the unnamed writer of this piece followed it to the letter. The most irritating comment? That some people use e-cigs to “skirt no-smoking-zone regulations” and everybody else is merely trying to quit smoking, willfully ignoring the notion of harm reduction, or in other words, the entire intention of e-cigs.
“Healthcare ethicist” Steve Heilig decides to imply that e-cigarettes are some type of cuddly disguise so the tobacco industry can continue to push their product. His evidence? Well, he clicked on an advertisement for an e-cig and points out that tobacco companies used to claim cigarettes were safe, as well as quoting what he must assume to be impartial sources of information like the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society. He says “don’t believe the hype” and bases his argument on the implicit assumption that e-cigs are a creation of the tobacco industry. The reality, of course, is that the vast majority of e-cig companies are independent and actively taking profit away from Big Tobacco.
3: ABC News: Exploding E-cig Used to Justify Propaganda
ABC News covered the case of the exploding e-cig in Florida in 2012 (which was an unofficial mod), using it as an excuse to publish a round of unproven baloney about e-cigs. The explosion was not placed into context (as mentioned earlier – all lithium batteries can explode) and described as akin to a “bottle rocket in his mouth,” but the remainder of the article makes your blood boil.
The article claims it’s an unregulated industry, with no evidence regarding their safety or their effectiveness for smoking cessation and that the marketing is aimed at vulnerable young people. The star of the article is Dr. Stephen Jay, a researcher who adds misplaced authority to the above claims and adds that e-cigs could serve as a “gateway” to tobacco smoking.
2: ABC Action News: Vaping More Dangerous than Smoking
Headlines are pretty easy. They’re compelling ways of conveying the general information from the article, encouraging readers to find out more. So ABC Action News went with this option, “Some say vaping e-cigarettes is worse than smoking the real thing,” for an article containing nothing other than speculative statements from the American Lung Association and an oncologist. This quote is the only “information” offered in support of the headline, “The doses of nicotine that you get could conceivably be higher than what you would get in a typical cigarette.” If you don’t speak fluent scaremonger-ese, this can be translated as “it is possible that somebody could put more nicotine in an e-cig that you’d get in a cigarette.”
If this still sounds bad to you (although nicotine is actually safe), consider this logically-equivalent argument: “drinking water could contain more LSD per glass than six doses.” It’s possible that somebody could spike your water supply with a ton of LSD, but have they? Of course not. We can only assume that if ABC Action News read this article they’d go with the headline “Some experts say that drinking water is more hallucinogenic than acid.”
1: The Daily Mail: E-cigs Worse than the Real Thing
You need some serious dedication to hack journalism and fear-mongering to have the stones to say e-cigs are more dangerous than tobacco cigs. UK-based hate-rag the Daily Mail has just what it takes, fearlessly publishing a headline to that effect. Complaints went to the official watchdog, and the paper now has a limp, unnoticeable apology up in its place. You might be surprised to learn (if you've never read anything about e-cigarettes aside from sensationalist nonsense) that noexperts believe that e-cigs are more dangerous than tobacco cigs. Undoubtedly the worst example from this newspaper, but sadly, it isn't the only one, and there will surely be more in the future.