The term “fake news” has become a buzzword that both sides of the political spectrum use to try to silence the competition. While there may be more accusations of fake news than there is actual fake news, the vaping community has definitely suffered from dubious reporting tactics and misrepresented facts. With most anti-e-cigarette rhetoric coming from the left, many conservative and libertarian writers have taken a stand to defend e-cigarettes against fear-mongering reports that use alternative facts.
Though President Donald Trump, a fan of calling fake news whenever he gets the chance, has never offered an opinion on e-cigarettes, conservatives by and large support vaping. While libertarian-leaning conservatives promote freedom of choice as a big reason that anti-e-cigarette regulations are a bad thing, most on the pro-vaping side say it’s simply a matter of looking at the facts: There is little evidence that e-cigarettes do any appreciable harm and much evidence that they improve the health of smokers who switch.
The big anti-e-cigarette headlines have been about kids getting hooked on vaping, e-cigarettes being damaging to cardiovascular health and even messing with DNA. But beneath the headlines and brief news articles, if one looks at the actual results of the studies behind these claims they can find a lot of issues with them. Studies that use too few participants, studies that cherry pick results – leaving out results that show positives for vaping and only reporting on the negatives – and studies that were obviously biased against e-cigarettes to begin with are just a few of the problems.
Journalists have a job to tell the truth, but they also have a job to get readers, viewers or listeners, depending on their medium. Too often that second job seems to come first, so attention-grabbing headlines – whether or not they ring true – are the norm. “E-cigarettes are probably okay” just doesn’t sound as exciting to the average reader as “E-cigarettes linked to DNA changes that could harm your children” does.
The problem is that the fear-mongering and overzealous warnings about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes could be literally killing millions of people who currently smoke cigarettes. E-cigarette sales are on the rise and vaping is now the most popular method of smoking cessation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. But how many smokers wanting to quit are not buying e-cigarettes because they believe the fake news headlines? That is a big concern of many health experts, like Paul Aveyard, Professor of Behavioral Medicine at the University of Oxford, who dismissed the reported link between vaping and cardiovascular disease. Aveyard says that the study showed vaping as only one of several possible reasons that the participants were inclined to get heart disease. The fact that the news reports and the study’s press release itself only mentioned vaping as a possible reason is a classic example of cherry picking.
At the moment, e-cigarette proponents are hopeful that the conservative administration might change a lot of the anti-e-cigarette regulations that were brought into effect by the Obama administration. Anti-vaping surgeon general Vivek Murthy is out after abruptly being asked to resign last week, and Trump’s nominee for head of the Food and Drug Administration is known to support vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking. Conservative analyst Grover Norquist believes that vapers may have played a big part in the election of Trump last November. Fake news is probably not going away anytime soon, but vaping proponents have been able to weed through it and find the real facts. The more that happens, the more support vaping is likely to get.