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Misinformation Harming Perception of Vaping

More Americans than ever now believe that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as smoking regular cigarettes, or possibly even worse. With zero evidence to support this anti-vaping message, officials have nonetheless spread it and are making it stick.

Despite the evidence and opinions of many health professionals worldwide that e-cigarettes are far safer than smoking, official agencies in the United States continue to insist that vaping is dangerous. The U.S. government and many state governments have backing from the Food and Drug Administration as well as the U.S. Surgeon General as they warn of terrible danger to anyone who thinks e-cigarettes are safer than smoking. The question, then, is how can these supposed experts be so terribly wrong?

While theories of greed and political maneuvering are bantered about, the question of “how” can be answered a bit more clearly than the question of “why”. How do authorities manage to come up with scientific evidence that is so vastly opposite other scientific evidence on the same topics? The answer is in something called junk science. Simply put, junk science involves arranging and controlling scientific studies so that they produce only the results that their sponsor wants.

Studies in Britain by health experts have shown that vaping is 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking. Because of this, the United Kingdom government has been encouraged to actually advise smokers to switch to e-cigarettes. On the opposite side of the Atlantic, the U.S. government is condemning e-cigarettes and making official statements on the dangers of vaping. Who is right, who is wrong, and is someone lying?
There is virtually no reason to suspect that the British government or the country’s scientific community would have some ulterior motive for encouraging people to use e-cigarettes. The government makes no money from the sale of e-cigarettes, and in a country with socialized medicine, healthier citizens will save the government money. The recommendation of e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco is in line with the health authorities’ position of wanting people to be healthier, and they have the facts to back up their pro-vaping claims.

But in the United States, ulterior motives for the condemnation of vaping certainly do exist. The pharmaceutical industry is huge, and it has a lot of lobbying power in Washington. E-cigarettes are a direct threat to pharmaceutical smoking cessation products like nicotine gums and patches. For government, tobacco tax revenue is dwindling because more smokers are quitting, so taxing e-cigarettes can make up for that, but there would be no valid reason to tax them unless officials claim they are the same as tobacco cigarettes.

The reports from the U.S. warning of the dangers of e-cigarettes show evidence of junk science. Looking behind the headlines and examining the details of how studies were conducted usually reveals no evidence of e-cigarette harm, but only twisted words to make it sound like some danger was found.

There are also some anti-smoking advocates who insist that complete abstinence from nicotine in any form is the only acceptable option. Spreading fears about teen vaping and the dangers of nicotine itself, these groups ignore science and cling to “what if” scenarios while demanding that e-cigarettes and smoking are the same thing.

While all of this is going on, the U.S. media is more likely to pick up on official statements coming from domestic government agencies than stories from England or about grassroots campaigns to spread the word of the benefits of e-cigarettes. Because of this, most Americans now believe that e-cigarettes are just as bad – or even worse – than smoking.

One of the greatest ironies in all of this is that tobacco companies in the past used junk science and misrepresentation of facts to stop the truth about tobacco harm being known. Now, agencies that have successfully fought against Big Tobacco and improved the public health by getting the truth about smoking out are using the same deceptive tactics to squash the truth about e-cigarettes, which could harm the public health and keep smokers smoking.

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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