Business Insider, a well-known American technology media, once published a commentary pointing out that criticizing e-cigarettes and spreading e-cigarette panic is one of the most typical cases of American media malfeasance and political opportunism.
The core points of the article are as follows:
• The “epidemic” of vaping is actually a typical moral panic. The media ignoring the evidence and reporting in sensational ways, coupled with the opportunistic politicians, further exacerbated the vaping panic.
• Data shows that legal nicotine e-cigarettes have nothing to do with the spate of vaping illnesses last year, and the overall cigarette smoking rate among teenagers has also experienced a historic drop, from 28.8% in 1976 to 3.6% in 2018, This is a great victory for public health.
• It seems too late for a reasonable discussion of vaping, as the full implementation of the vaping ban has already had a negative impact.
• The vaping scare is leading to a new “Prohibition crisis”.
The following is the original content of Business Insider:
The vaping-related outbreak was one of the biggest health and policy events of 2019. However, the real crisis has yet to come.
Over the past year, mainstream coverage in the U.S. media has been filled with criticism of e-cigarettes, claiming that any American would be disabled by vaping Juul e-cigarettes. Politicians are even more aggressive.
U.S. Secretary of Health Jerome M. Adams commented on social networks: “We cannot tolerate a single case of death or hospitalization from vaping!”
Legislators have followed suit by enacting a blanket ban on flavored e-cigarettes (or even all e-cigarettes), but this is tantamount to self-inflicted cocoons.
According to the latest survey by pollster YouGov and The Economist, 67% of American adults support a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. 56% of smokers also supported the ban, even though using nicotine e-cigarettes instead of cigarettes might save their lives. The public has been misled by this public opinion.
However, almost everyone’s understanding of the “vaping epidemic” is completely wrong.
On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its recommendation to completely ban all e-cigarettes, instead recommending a ban on vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, this does little to correct the misunderstandings that the public has formed. And when this misunderstanding deepens, a new “Prohibition crisis” is brewing.
Like the failed Prohibition, vaping bans will have several consequences: a flood of dangerous and substandard products on the black market; over-criminalization of at-risk groups; and a resurgence of cigarette smoking.
The public’s misunderstanding of two “popular”
The Prohibition crisis started with the ban, and the ban started with panic.
We can get a glimpse of it from the propaganda of Prohibition in the 1930s and the huge failure of Prohibition. Prohibition failed in part because the influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe in the early 20th century sparked a moral panic about alcoholism in the United States.
And in the “vaping scare,” two different crises were mistakenly conflated.
A kind of panic stems from concealing the disease. Bruce Barcott writes that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is still an illegal product in most U.S. states, so its use is seen as a stigma. “It would allow patients who feel ashamed and embarrassed to lie to their doctors,” Bruce noted.
In the article, Bruce points out that research by social scientists, including Dana Hunt, found that only 84 percent of marijuana users were willing to admit to using the drug, and only after they got their test results. .
Lung disease and 59 confirmed deaths from vaping have added to the scare over vaping. When the CDC finally confirmed that the “epidemic” of vaping disease was only related to THC products containing vitamin E acetate on the black market, there were only a handful of reports.
At this point it is too late to try to eliminate the panic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned nearly all flavored e-cigarettes, and some cities have banned e-cigarettes entirely.
The second type of panic catalyst is that some media reports are taken out of context, pointing out that the proportion of young people vaping nicotine e-cigarettes is increasing.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of high school students who vaped in the last 30 days more than doubled, from 11% to 25.4%.
Because of their developing brains and bodies, addiction to nicotine, one of the most physically difficult drugs to quit, can cause serious problems, and teenage smoking itself is a real concern.
However, there is another piece of information that is rarely covered in media reports: overall cigarette smoking among teens has been declining.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 1976, 28.8 percent of high school students regularly smoked cigarettes. In 2018, the percentage dropped to 3.6 percent. This is a great victory in public health.
Unfortunately, all are still drawn to the statistics taken out of context. The New Jersey Anti-Drug Coalition even put out a satirical slogan “vaping is as safe as skydiving without a parachute bag”, causing panic among the public.
This type of ignoring scientific facts and spreading panic is threatening public health.
Frustratingly, legions of journalists are also caught up in a dangerous convergence of thinking, failing to question preconceptions.
For example, PBS reported this week that cancer death rates fell by 2.2% between 2016 and 2017, the largest single-year drop on record.
However, the report did not explore whether the use of nicotine e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool was related to the reduction in cancer incidence in the United States, but raised a puzzling question: “Will e-cigarettes lead to a rebound in lung cancer in the United States?”
The reporter then quoted a medical expert from the American Lung Association as saying, “It is too early to draw conclusions about whether e-cigarettes cause cancer.” This actually shows in disguise that there is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes cause cancer.
Although it may seem objective, this assumption of journalists has been able to lead to bad consequences.
Politicians are opportunistic
One of the views of US Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is “Legislation first, then evidence.” “I think if the industry is causing addiction and there is evidence that people are getting sick, we should outlaw it,” he said in a public speech this month, though his campaign was quick to dismiss the claim as too harsh. Take it back, but the sentiment still represents the dominant view in American politics.
Amid the hustle and bustle, little attention has been paid to high school students facing felony charges and expulsion for vaping under a new Texas deal. This basically heralded the beginning of a new “prohibition” movement.
And banned items never go away, they just get more expensive and dangerous.
Smoking nicotine e-cigarettes is 95% safer than smoking cigarettes, which kill more than half a million Americans each year, according to Public Health England. There are many signs that defining nicotine e-cigarettes as a public health disaster is the result of a typical American moral panic.
Spreading the panic about e-cigarettes is the wrong choice for the United States at the moment. In terms of damage done, this is likely to be one of the most typical examples of contemporary media malfeasance and political opportunism.
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