Forget the war on Christmas; the war on vaping is in full force all year long. E-cigarettes picked up a lot of support in the last year, yet public opinion is lagging behind the science, which overwhelmingly suggests that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking. Nonetheless, vaping is on the rise while smoking is on the decline. Below is a briefing on the battles e-cigs have endured.
E-Cigs vs. The Public: A Tale of Two Views
E-cigs have been divisive since they hit the market. On one side of the argument, we have those who are afraid that e-cigs could pose health risks. They often argue that not enough evidence exists to prove e-cigs are safe. Many people in this camp are unaware that dozens of research studies have concluded that e-cigs are exponentially less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.
On the other side, we have vapers and tobacco-harm-reduction advocates. Most vapers are former smokers who have successfully quit or reduced their tobacco intake thanks to e-cigs. Some non-vapers also fit into this group including public health officials who recognize the potential of e-cigs to save lives. Many vaping advocates work tirelessly in spreading e-cig awareness and lobbying against unjust regulations of e-cigs at the local, state and federal level. Despite these efforts and the studies suggesting e-cigs should be recognized as a safer alternative to smoking, the public’s perception of the potential benefits of electronic cigarettes is steadily declining, all thanks to flawed scientific studies and misleading headlines.
Fear Mongering and Sensationalist Headlines
Why do so many people hold false beliefs about electronic cigarettes? When you look at media coverage of e-cigs, it’s no wonder that the discourse around the vaping industry is so hazy. Here is just a smattering of inaccurate headlines about vaping:
- “E-cigarettes Not Safer than Ordinary Cigarettes, Contains High Concentration of Formaldehyde” – This claim has been repeatedly refuted because the researchers overheated e-cig atomizers to achieve their desired results.
- “Yep, e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking” – The article failed to mention that the vast majority of e-cig users try tobacco cigarettes first.
- “E-cigarettes are no safer than smoking tobacco, scientists warn.” – The scientists in this headline claimed their e-cig study results were misinterpreted.
- “E-cigarette vapor exposes people sharing a room with an e-cigarette user to contaminants” – Actual studies of e-cig emissions have found that inhaling e-cig vapor is virtually as safe as breathing air.
- “E-cigarettes are just as addictive as the real thing” – Even though some e-cigs contain nicotine, tobacco cigarettes contain much higher concentrations of nicotine in addition to other addictive substances.
- “Candy-Flavored E-Cigarette Ads Appeal to Kids” – A survey by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association found that 83 percent of adult vapers prefer fruit flavors while 76 percent prefer candy, soda or pastry flavors. Apparently, e-cig companies are answering the demands of their adult customers.
Health Organizations Against E-cigs
Sadly, it’s not just the media contributing to confusion about e-cigs; several public health organizations are actively trying to scare people away from vaping and continue pushing for legislation to restrict access to e-cigs:
- Public Health California launched a $75 million campaign called StillBlowingSmoke.org to equate e-cigs with tobacco products. A grassroots website called NOTBlowingSmoke.org was created by e-cig advocates to counter Public Health California’s misinformation.
- The World Health Organization’s leaders have illogically opined that e-cigs should be regulated as tobacco products.
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has contributed to the lie that e-cigs are a gateway to tobacco cigarettes, yet smoking rates have declined since the advent of vaping.
- The American Lung Association (ALA) has dismissed the benefits of e-cigs as tobacco cessation devices even though they are more effective than nicotine gum and patches. The ALA is unsurprisingly funded by companies that make tobacco cessation drugs.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs told reporters that e-cigs, “are no better than smoking regular cigarettes.” To be fair, they issued a statement correcting their inaccurate claim.
- The American Legacy Foundation claims, “consumers are taking unknown risks by using e-cigarettes,” which is an absolute lie; there’s plenty of research about e-cigs available to anyone who looks for it.
- Mayo Clinic and the Rhode Island Department of Public Health most recently added themselves to this list with the claim that “smoking is no worse than vaping.”
Political Leaders Finally Speak Out in Favor of E-cigs
Not all news is bad news. Some prominent politicians are finally throwing their support behind e-cigs. Public Health England surprised many people in 2015 with their evidence based report on e-cig safety, which declared vaping to be “95% less harmful than smoking.” Since then, other health officials and politicians have come forward as advocates for tobacco harm reduction. For example:
- Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) came out as an e-cig user by announcing, “E-cigarettes are a suitable alternative to cigarettes, and they could very well save my life.” He is part of the growing segment in congress in opposition to the new draconian FDA regulations on e-cigs.
- Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller criticized anti-vaping campaigns that contradict science and deceive youth into thinking that cigarettes are a gateway to smoking. He warns, “Adults misleading kids to get them to do what we want has always been a failed strategy.”
- UK Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed e-cigarettes as effective smoking cessation tools. Cameron, a former smoker himself, cited the Public Health England report and acknowledged, “One million people are estimated to have used e-cigarettes to help them quit.”
The lies and smear campaigns against the vaping industry will likely continue, but more people are realizing that e-cigs are a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. The new FDA Deeming Regulations could cause some setbacks, which is why vapers and tobacco-harm-reductionists must remain vigorous in protecting their rights and their health.