In a public education campaign entitled "Do You Know Vape?" Idaho Public Television in collaboration with the state health districts is informing the public that: "Vaping is not safer than cigarette smoking."
The campaign is also making several other alarming claims, including that:
- third-hand aerosol from vaping (i.e., particles that stick to surfaces) can cause "asthma, respiratory illness, increased risk of disease, headaches and increased risk of cancer"; and
- vaping exposes users to metals in the lungs that can cause lung cancer.
The Rest of the Story
Rather than calling this a public "education" campaign, Idaho Public Television should more accurately call this a public "miseducation" campaign.
First, it is simply not true that vaping is no safer than smoking. There are a multitude of studies showing that vaping is much safer than smoking. I won't repeat all the evidence here but it can be found throughout my blog. Even scientists who are profoundly anti-vaping admit that vaping is much safer than smoking.
Imagine if the tobacco industry made the same statement, except changing the syntax to read: "Cigarette smoking is no more harmful than vaping." According to the Idaho health officials, that would be a perfectly accurate statement for Big Tobacco to make. It's a wonder that the cigarette companies haven't truthfully told their customers and potential customers that: "According to health officials in Idaho, cigarette smoking poses no more health risks than just vaping, which does not contain any tobacco or involve combustion and the production of smoke." That would be a truthful statement.
Second, there is no clinical evidence that vaping causes brain, bone, or lung injury to young people. It is true that vaping THC, if it is contaminated with vitamin E acetate, can cause severe lung injury, but it is clearly the message given by this statement that e-cigarette use can cause lung injury. While it is true that in animal models, nicotine exposure can inhibit brain development, I am not aware of any clinical evidence that vaping causes brain injury among adolescents. And while it is true that in a Petri dish, e-cigarette aerosol may inhibit bone healing, I am aware of no clinical evidence that vaping causes bone injury in young people.
Third, there is absolutely no evidence that third-hand exposure to vaping aerosol causes any health effects, much less cancer.
Fourth, there is no evidence that vaping causes lung cancer.
It is a great disservice to the protection of the public's health to put out this type of misinformation. What this does is to discourage adult smokers from quitting by switching to e-cigarettes. After all, if smoking is no more dangerous than vaping, then why bother switching? You might as well stick with the real thing. This misinformation also encourages ex-smokers who have quit smoking (by switching to vaping) to return to cigarette smoking. Why bother taking the risk of getting scary diseases like popcorn lung when you can just go back to smoking and not have to worry about it? No anti-smoking group has ever put out a warning about smoking causing popcorn lung!
My own research has demonstrated that the hysterical misinformation that aims to scare the public into thinking that vaping is no safer than smoking has caused demonstrable damage to the public's health by resulting in an increase in cigarette consumption. In other words, this is harmful not only because it violates the public health code of ethics (lying is against the public health code of ethics) but because it is actually killing people.
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