Last year, the findings of a study conducted by Public Health England concluded that smoking e-cigarettes is 95% healthier than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. You would think that these solid, scientifically conclusive findings would put a stop to the hearsay, scaremongering and for want of a better description, lies about e-cigarettes that the media has been churning out over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, despite evidence, the dispute between science and the media over the health and safety of e-cigarettes continues well into 2016.
Examples of this are evident in the headline archives of The Sun, The Telegraph, The Mirror and numerous other newspapers, magazines and online forums. It’s no secret to anyone that the media generates content that will grab attention, shock people and therefore accumulate online likes and shares, regardless of whether or not the content is true. All of us have read the scandalous headline of an article and frantically flicked to the right page or clicked through to read the whole thing, only to be desperately disappointed by a mundane and really rather ordinary story that has practically nothing to do with the headline. However, some people only read the headline and don’t read the body of article, leaving them unwittingly ignorant and with a completely false idea.
One dreadful example of this is the story that appeared in The Sun and The Telegraph last year which read ‘Man Left with Hole in his Lung After E-Cigarette Spits out Burning Nicotine’. Standing alone, this headline is more than shocking – it’s terrifying. However, once you delve further into the articles and dissect them, science tells us that the hole in the man’s lung was in fact not a result of e-cigarettes but a pneumothorax caused by past (or present) tobacco smoking and that for the acclaimed ‘burning e-liquid’ to have got to his lungs without burning his oesophagus and other parts of his anatomy on the way down would be a miracle even Jesus wouldn’t be able to conjure.
So why does the media seem to hate vaping? Unsurprisingly, internet popularity has a significant amount to do with it. More clicks equals more revenue, more likes equals more exposure and the more shocking the content is, the more it will be shared and copied onto other forums; as with most industries, it all boils down to money and power. But why is the vaping industry in particular such a common victim of the vicious journalistic bullies?
For a start, the vaping industry is in its very junior years; it’s young, it hasn’t got any bigger kids to help defend it (such as longitudinal studies and proof of long term effects). Not only is the vaping industry essentially a fledgling, it’s also the new kid on the block who has annoyed its rivals – tobacco and pharmaceutical companies who manufacture nicotine replacement products. Similarly, the UK Government are losing more profit from tax revenue each year that the vaping industry grows in popularity - £12.3 billion was made from the tobacco market tax revenue in 2012/13. These, along with other multimillion pound companies, are missing out on profit because of e-cigarettes. So much so, that the new Tobacco Products Directive coming in next month is going to hinder the production and sales of e-cigarettes dramatically – seemingly some people can’t take a little bit of competition.
The primary issue here is not how annoying these pieces of ignorant journalism are and how detrimental they potentially are to our beloved vaping industry, but more how deceitful and misleading they are. Feeding the public masses of wrong information for the sake of revenue and profit is immoral and frankly disgusting. Sometimes we forget that the fundamental purpose of e-cigarettes is to wean smokers off tobacco and onto a healthier alternative that still provides the user with a nicotine kick. This helps to either break the habit completely, or bring down the risk of cancer and numerous other illnesses dramatically by switching to and sticking to vaping. So why knock it?
It’s clear to see that despite numerous studies, including the big one by Public Health England (endorsed by the NHS), those who want to believe and say bad things about the vaping industry will not be silenced by science. The media’s attitude to vaping is one filled with bias, money hungry personalities which makes fighting through their discourse difficult so remembering objective, scientific facts when sifting through the headlines is important. The hope is that once longitudinal studies come into place, the ignorance surrounding the health effects of e-cigarettes will be banished and then perhaps, not even The Sun will be able to dispute it.