Published on September 14th, 2013 | by Trick2
Discovery’s E-Cig “Must Knows” Exploit Unfounded Fears
Discovery News has published a list of “Five Must-Knows” about e-cigarettes on their website. Rather than being informative and interesting, however, it’s a fluff piece that only parrots the most common anti-vaping misinformation we’ve seen over and over in other places.
Their first fear-inducing “must know” is that there are no controls on electronic cigarettes, and that they are banned in several countries. This, of course, is not true: electronic cigarettes are subject to the same controls as other consumer products, and the ingredients used are subject to regulation as well.
“[Erika] Sward [of the American Lung Association] said initial studies by the FDA in 2009 found detectable levels of toxic chemicals including an ingredient used in anti-freeze.”
Their second “must know”: that there is no way to know if electronic cigarettes are safe or not. Again, this is not true, as has been evidenced by several studies showing no evidence of detrimental health effects. While Discovery News mentions the FDA’s very flawed and extremely limited 2009 study, and mentions that other studies have found toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene, they do not mention all of the research which has found no dangerous levels of any chemical. Instead, they choose to just echo the half-truths fed to them by Erika Sward of the American Lung Association, even going as far as to warn that electronic cigarettes have been found “an ingredient contained in anti-freeze.” When you see that one, you know you’re dealing with the worst kind of fearmongering.
The third: that there are a large number of manufacturers. At least this one is true, though they felt a need to throw in that the FDA has sent warnings to five of them (without, of course, mentioning which five those were, making the information useless).
Their fourth “must-know”: That manufacturers say e-cigarettes are a better alternative to smoking for existing smokers. This, of course, is certainly true. However, they follow it up by claiming that the recent CDC study on teen use of electronic cigarettes indicates “e-cigarettes could act as a gateway drug for young smokers to try real cigarettes,” when it contains no evidence whatsoever of that being the case.
“Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff have appeared in ads promoting e-cigarettes, joining a list of celebrities who have tried to make smoking sexy dating back to the 1930s. But the CDC says smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States, killing 443,000 people each year.”
Their last point is that electronic cigarettes are endorsed by celebrity spokespeople. The downside, they say, is that smoking kills people. In this last “must know,” Discovery News reveals that they have a laughably poor grasp of the subject matter they’re dealing with, seemingly failing to understand even the most basic benefit of electronic cigarettes: using them is not smoking, and the number of cigarette-related deaths is irrelevant to e-cigarettes, unless used to indicate the number of people whose lives could be improved by using them. For electronic cigarettes, the 443,000 people killed each year by smoking isn’t a number that should instill fear, but inspire hope.
We had hoped for better from Discovery, then remembered that this is the same cable channel that makes a good amount of its money by exploiting the fear of sharks for one week every summer as people return to beaches. I’m not sure why we expected them to treat electronic cigarettes any differently.