The PA Department of Health recently tweeted some questionable facts, sending the entire vaping community into defense mode
Misinformation is one of the most significant problems facing the vaping industry, and it’s nothing new. It seems like every week another government or health agency is calling into question the benefit that vaping offers. Issues like this highlight why it’s always so important to do your own research before believing any hype. Unfortunately, many do not follow this rule, and as a result, the public perception of vaping remains woefully low with only around 13% of adults understanding how much safer vaping is than smoking. These false claims show no signs of slowing down either, as just last week the Pennsylvania Department of Health tweeted some flatly false information about vaping.
These sorts of false statements grab the attention of individuals who are still uncertain about the long term effects of vaping. Given the relatively recent nature of vaping, it’s somewhat understandable why so many have these questions. But what’s not okay is institutions like the Pennsylvania DOH and FDA using this fear of the unknown to spread false information about e-cigarettes. False information which could have a significant impact on the harm reduction and smoking cessation value of vaporizers.
Over the last several years, Twitter has proven itself to be an incredibly valuable tool at connecting people with companies and institutions. But coming with that incredible reach is the risk it’s used to disseminate less than accurate information. This line was crossed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s twitter account when it posted a tweet last week which flatly said vaping is no safer than smoking. While the debate over the precise degree of harm reduction is ongoing, most experts agree that vaping is dramatically safer than smoking. So indicating this to a massive audience can only be beneficial to Big Tobacco companies who rely on this type of disinformation. The tweet itself is quite clear, “E-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens or vapes—whatever you call them, they are NOT safer than other tobacco products.”
This stance was immediately met with a ton of resistance from health professionals around the world. Clive Bates, well known as the former Director General of Wales, feels the move will ultimately amount to little more than a PR benefit to Big Tobacco. Dr. Carl Phillips took a much harder stance, taking this as a prime example of why you cannot just trust the government to simply tell you the truth all of the time. Regardless of how the public takes it, this type of rhetoric is precisely what’s been coming out the FDA and Surgeon General’s Office for the last couple of years now. But that doesn’t make it any less damaging or false.
The Case For E-Cigarettes
There’s a reason why even most anti-vapers don’t claim that vaping is just as dangerous as smoking. That’s because we have a mountain of peer-reviewed evidence proving it. Back in 2015 we first got a report from Public Health England which found vaping to be at least 95% safer than smoking, while a study published just last month proved once again this number is on point when it found vapor contains about 93% fewer toxicants than cigarette smoke. If that didn’t make the harm reduction value clear enough, another study published last year found the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is around 57,000 times lower than a demographically similar smoker.
Making the case even stronger is proof we have that vaping is an incredibly effective smoking cessation tool. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Louisville concluded that not only is vaping an effective device against smoking, but it’s also actually the most likely to lead to a successful quit attempt, even beating out popular prescription drugs. To top things off, we also have plenty of reason to believe the teenage vaping “epidemic” is overblown. A study of over 60,000 teens concluded only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever picking up vaporizers full time, let alone cigarettes.
It should come as no surprise that such blatantly false information is being spread by a supposedly trustworthy organization like the PA Department of Health. What’s worse is they show no remorse in effectively giving a huge advantage to Big Tobacco over something proven to be safer. Research remains the only way we can properly combat false claims like this. If we blindly listen to those in power, we make it incredibly easy for them to lie. If vaping is ever going to reach its full potential as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool, we must stop letting false information be spread as fact to those who don’t understand the difference.
Do you think misinformation like this is a particularly significant problem facing the vaping industry? How can we ensure false claims are met with a swift rebuttal? What’s the best way you’ve found to spread positive information about vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.