Bad Reporting Alert: 10 Lies the Wall Street Journal Told About E-Cigarettes

On November 10, the Wall Street Journal published a rather lengthy column titled “10 Things E-Cigarettes Won’t Tell You”. Writer Jen Wieczner took an unapologetically negative stance towards electronic cigarettes, which isn’t altogether surprising coming from the mainstream media. However, when we see completely ludicrous reporting, it’s worth drawing some attention from the public. This article is full of total lies and misconceptions, not to mention a blatant lack of research. Let’s take a look at the myths published in the article and uncover the truth that the media is obviously trying to either ignore or cover up.

Myth #1 – We’re Big Tobacco in Disguise

In the first big myth of this column, Wieczner mentions the fast growth of the electronic cigarette industry and then moves on to share that Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard are all getting involved in the e-cig industry. She basically leads the reader to assume that all e-cigarettes are backed by big tobacco hiding in new brand news. This is absolutely untrue. While tobacco companies own a handful of e-cig brands, there are many more e-cigarettes manufactured and distributed by companies completely unaffiliated with tobacco products. Big tobacco affiliations are a rarity in the overall e-cig market, but of course, the Wall Street Journal won’t tell you that.

Myth #2 – We Can’t Promise This Won’t Kill You

The second myth was that e-cigs have no real certainty of how they will impact your health. Is this true? Not at all! Of course, electronic cigarette marketing cannot contain health claims. It’s a matter of legality. However, there is plenty of research out there to back the “implied” health claims. For instance, a study by Inhalation Toxicology found that e-cigarettes cause no signs of cellular toxicity. Basically, researchers found that unlike tobacco cigarettes, e-cigs do not damage or kill human cells.

Myth #3 – This Probably Isn’t the Best Way to Quit Smoking

While the FDA hasn’t approved e-cigs for use as a smoking-cessation product, the Wall Street Journal points out that many people use them for that purpose. However, the column goes on to say, “Health experts worry that smokers will just switch to e-cigarettes, or use them additionally, instead of quitting cold turkey.” Why is this a huge worry? Again and again, we’ve seen evidence that e-cigarettes do effectively help people kick the tobacco habit. In fact, research shows that e-cigarettes are more effective than nicotine gums, patches, lozenges, inhalers, prescription medications, and even cold turkey attempts. If e-cigs are not the best method, we would love to know what method is better… with some research to back the claim!

Myth #4 – “We’re Advertising Like It’s 1960… While We Still Can”

In classic (and unoriginal) style, the Wall Street Journal column points out that e-cigs can be advertised on TV, while tobacco cigarettes are not allowed to use TV promotion. The article implies that e-cigs face immediate federal regulations and takes the tone that this regulation is needed to prevent e-cigs from being accessible to children. In reality, only a few companies advertise their e-cigs on television and the ad spots are nothing like the advertisements of the 1960’s.

Myth #5 – “We Defy Categorization”

The article points out that the e-cig industry welcomes regulation, but does not desire to be categorized as tobacco products. It also points out that e-cig companies do not want to be categorized as drug or delivery devices. However, the Wall Street Journal points out that e-cigs will most likely face categorization soon thanks to the FDA. In reality, the e-cig industry does not “defy” categorization. Instead, the industry only requests that categorization be fair and accurate.

Can e-cigs be labeled as tobacco products? No! They contain no tobacco so how would that be fair? On the flip side, should e-cig products be categorized as medicinal? That wouldn’t be a good scenario either because it would require extensive trials and heavy regulation that would take years to implement. So the only real answer is for e-cigarettes to be treated as a completely distinct category. After all, these products are totally unique. We don’t defy categorization; we just believe e-cigs deserve their own category.

Myth #6 – “We’re Cheaper than Cigarettes Because We Aren’t Taxed Like Cigarettes”

It is completely true that e-cigarettes are cheaper than tobacco cigarettes, but it’s not just because of the cigarette tax. One of the big differences between tobacco smokes and e-cigs is that e-cigs are reusable. When you buy a rechargeable starter kit, you have a one-time investment. After that, you simply refill your e-cig with new cartridges or e-liquid, which is a fraction of the price of cigarettes. Even if ecigs faced the same taxation as tobacco, it would be cheaper.

Myth #7 – “Kids Love Us”

Surprise, surprise… the Wall Street Journal fell back on the old “kids love e-cigs” argument. The article sites the same old CDC study that everyone uses, alleging that 2 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2012. However, if you check the facts, there were only 2.5 million Americans using e-cigarettes in 2012. What are the odds that 80 percent of them were kids?

Myth #8 – “We’re Bringing Smoking Back Indoors”

Next, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that e-cigs are making is possible to “smoke” indoors again. Once again, may we kindly remind the reader that vaping and smoking are two completely different things? But even moving beyond the bad terminology, the article uses vague research with no sources. It points to research from the University of California that found “many of the elements” in e-cig vapor “are known to cause respiratory distress and disease.”

If you really want to know the facts about e-cig research, here are some actual sources you might want to consider:

Informa Healthcare published a study showing that e-cig vapor did not significantly impact lung function or pose any discernible risk to public health. In March 2013, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute studied vapor from 12 e-cigarette brands. They learned that toxic compounds in e-cigarettes were up to 450 times less than toxins in tobacco smoke. Ultimately, they uncovered that e-cig vapor contains few toxins, oftentimes less than nicotine inhalers medically prescribed by physicians. If that doesn’t convince you, take a look at the recent study by French researchers that showed that being exposed to e-cig vapor poses no risks at all.

Myth #9 – “We’re Bringing Smoking Back Into Aircraft”

The Wall Street Journal also points out that e-cigs are becoming a common problem on airplanes. While I have never actually seen anyone vaping on an airplane, it probably happened somewhere. However, most airlines do not allow e-cigs to be used on board. But even if they did allow them, it wouldn’t be harmful according to the research we looked at in the above paragraph!

Myth #10 – “E-Joints and E-Crackpipes are the New E-Cig”

This has got to be the most ludicrous claim about e-cigarette we have seen so far. The article quotes Michael Fiore, a physician and director of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. He apparently told the reporter that e-cigs could be used to vaporize marijuana or to smoke crack cocaine. Thank you Dr. Fiore for giving the world’s idiot drug users another idea! But let’s think about this like a reasonable person. How many crack addicts are going to be willing to drop $100+ on an e-cig kit when they could just spend the money on more drugs and smoke it the traditional way?

And even if there are a handful of drug users that have started using e-cigs as part of the habit, should we outlaw them? If so, we should also be banning glue, gasoline, and paint thinner because huffing these substances is a big trend among teenagers and it’s killing people every year.

The Bottom Line

While it was really great that the Wall Street Journal devoted such a big column to electronic cigarettes, it would have been even better if the “journalist” had actually done some fact checking before she hit “publish”. This is one of the worst e-cig articles we have seen to date.

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Author Focus: Katie Bercham
Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 2 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community... Read Full Profile >