Anti-Vaping Propaganda: Scare Tactics Used by News Outlets
We know sensationalist headlines get more clicks, and the more they get clicked, the higher the ad-revenue becomes. The conclusion: ad-revenue drives clickbait. Thus, the race to come up with outrageous, ill-informed articles never ends. It’s a clusterfuck, and an embarrassment to journalism.
It’s no secret media websites leverage tragedy and speculation for website traffic. Simply pose an outrageous title and the clicks will follow the pied piper. Sadly, for us, vapers, these articles fall on credulous, gullible eyes that misinterpret and promote this misinformation through social media and we are left to face the music.
Vaping appears to have an almost knee-jerk reactionary argument against it. Why? Because most people believe smoking e-cigarettes is just as bad as smoking tobacco. Journalists have developed an easy trigger-finger against vaping for years. They can make claims without compunction and comfortably feast on the ad-revenue that follows.
We try to vape in our ivory tower, but a tide of bullshit articles is constantly beating at its walls.
Fearmongering and Deception
The news outlet isn’t culpable by itself. Sometimes, the problem are some of the writers. British online news outlet The Independent, has published articles for and against vaping. A headline like, “Government encourages smokers to switch to vaping” sits next to, “Vaping causes DNA mutations which could lead to cancer.” So, which one is it? Why would a news outlet agree with both? The answer is money. Both headlines bring ad money.
U.K.-based author Lee Johnson gives an excellent example regarding pernicious practices. In his example, he showcases an article from The Telegraph with the headline: “E-cigarettes could raise risk of cancer and heart disease, warn scientists,” where he points out how the author refers to vaping as “e-cigarette smoke” instead of vapor—missing the point altogether.
The Dangers of Anti-Vaping Propaganda
When it comes to vaping, people easily overestimate the dangers and underestimate the benefits. Fewer than 6 out of 10 people believe vaping is less detrimental than tobacco smoking. People who believe nicotine is the only causal factor for smoking-related illnesses are also likely to believe vaping and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) are just as bad.
Studies show 4 out of 10 people believe nicotine is what causes the cancer in smoking. These beliefs could lead tobacco smokers to avoid vaping as an alternative and sticking with tobacco. The media focuses on the harms of vaping and ignores the positive impact. They fail, or deliberately ignore, the benefits of vaping as an alternative.
Fixing these beliefs implanted by the media could aid smokers use replacements and healthier methods in their path to cessation. Tobacco Control Lead at PHE, Martin Dockrell provides an insightful statement:
“There is still work to do to reassure smokers that vaping, while not risk free, is much less harmful than smoking. If you smoke, switching to an e-cigarette could save your life.”
Viewing vaping in the same light as NRT products (gums, inhalers, etc.) may change its perception and save lives in the long-term. Misinformation is dangerous and could prevent people from making a positive change that could save them or, at least, prolong their lifespan.
What is NRT?
Nicotine Replacement Therapy is a treatment that supplies small doses of nicotine in an effort to pursue smoking cessation and reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These “replacement” methods contain less harmful toxins found in regular cigarettes. Gum and patches can be purchased over the counter and are accessible to anyone. Inhalers and nasal sprays require a prescription.
Is Vaping Considered NRT?
Officially, vaping is not an approved method of smoking cessation. But, is it highly recommended by health care professionals? Absolutely. Dr. Hayden McRobbie, Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health and Psychological Studies, provides acknowledgment and approval to the idea of switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes as a highly-effective method of cessation.
Most agree that switching to vaping is ideal when smoking cessation is a concern. The truth is, some transition to vaping and stay there. Others use vaping as a method to edge out the addiction altogether. Smokers who fully switch to e-cigarettes from cigarettes are classified as former smokers in medical records.
Is Nicotine the Boogeyman?
This is a problem of correlation vs. causation. While the nicotine drives the addiction to cigarette smoking, what causes cancer and other common smoking related illnesses are the seven thousand chemicals packed in a cigarette stick. Tar, ammonia, and thousands more chemical constituents do not exist in flavored vaping juice. The nicotine isn’t the causal factor. Vaping keeps the addictive vehicle but removes up to 7000 of harmful constituents.
Vaping isn’t 100% healthy. Inhaling aerosol contains toxic elements that are harmful, and that is no secret. It’s not something the vaping industry is trying to hide. So, no, nicotine isn’t the boogeyman—it’s another media scare tactic.
Sensationalist Articles and Headlines:
Here’s a small batch of sensationalist articles and headlines from different news outlets:
“Is Vaping Linked to Brain and Lung Issues?” Soupwire
“Is Vaping ‘Linked’ to Brain Damage, Narrow Arteries, and Lung Cancer?” Snopes
“Vaping is Big Tobacco’s Bait and Switch” New York Times
“Vaping may damage your BRAIN by destroying your stem cells” Mirror.co.uk
“Vaping won’t spare your brain, may result in stem cell damage” Economic Times
“FDA is investigating nearly three dozen reports of seizures after vaping” CNBC
“Can You Vape to Death? Gizmodo
“Vaping may be more dangerous than we realized” Vox
We Are Losing
In a 2015 article, author Lindsay Fox brilliantly provides a list of reasons why the anti-vaping propaganda is winning the war—or “was” winning the war, back then. The reasons include vaping climate uncertainty, repetition of hypotheticals, scary images, confirmation bias, etc.
It’s almost 2020 and the battle still rages on with the same tactics. In fact, it’s probably worse. Last month, the city of San Francisco successfully banned vaping, and the state of Vermont imposed a 92% tax on all vaping products.
Those are severe attacks on the vaping industry. What’s going to happen next? Don’t be surprised if they outlaw vaping altogether, or tax it so highly it becomes unviable. Many ex-smokers will undoubtedly return to smoking cigarettes.
A dangerous proposition.