The Careless Reporting of Vaping Lung Disease

Hysterical headlines about vaping lung disease have churned their way through the news cycle over the last several weeks, spreading confusion and alarm. Missing in these headlines is a salient point. Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDs) have been not blamed in any of the 200 cases.

Usually, I avoid the clunky ENDs descriptor of vaping devices. But the CDC has muddied the waters by referring to THC and CBD vape carts, oils and waxes as electronic cigarettes.

During the frequent sprouts and romaine lettuce disease outbreaks, do headlines trumpet “vegetable deaths” and “produce related illness”? Of course not. Because that would be an idiotic way to cover the subject, unless your goal is to convince people to avoid produce and vegetables.

Beneath the splashy headlines is a crucial issue: Black market THC cartridges appear to be responsible and almost all of the incidents are geographically linked to Wisconsin and Illinois. Citizens of the Upper Midwest are not genetically predisposed to pulmonary issues from THC carts, so it is also fair to assume that the culprits have at most a regional footprint.

“Within two states, recent inhalation of cannabinoid products, THC or cannabidiol, have been reported in many of the patients.”

CDC

Vaping Lung Disease

The word “vaping” may dominate your newsfeed, but the victims of this outbreak aren’t buying a Vuse Alto at the gas station or filling up their subtank with a high VG/low nic ejuice.

As reported by the CDC, “Many patients report using e-cigarette products with liquids that contain cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”

On Friday, the CDC finally attempted to address the confusing coverage that has conflated ENDs use with an outbreak isolated to THC carts.

“Regardless of the ongoing investigation, anyone who uses e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street (e.g., e-cigarette products with THC, other cannabinoids) and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.”

CDC

Unfortunately, this clear directive is located below dozens of uses of the word e-cigarette, in each case misapplied to devices that do not vape nicotine.

The CDC is justified in their concerns about an outbreak that has harmed hundreds. But a bit of clarity in writing would go a long way to making it clear to the general public what this outbreak actually is and just as importantly what it is not.

E-Cigarettes

The epidemiologists at the CDC are skilled. They probably have identified who or what is responsible and at the very least have narrowed the field down to a few suspects. But this level of precision and professionalism apparently does not extend to the content side of the department.

The word e-cigarette is thrown carelessly throughout their press release. Are they being intentionally obtuse and trying to besmirch the safety record of the vaping industry?

Were the authors lazy and unable to use the technically correct terms of art? Or is a government department as desperate for clicks and page views as commercial website? Whatever the case may be, it is the opposite of the precise and scientific language that this sort of public health press release demands.

The CDC and media wags are certainly are doing no favors for potentially at risk cannabis oil users, who do not consider their devices e-cigarettes.

Heavy smokers who are looking for an alternative to conventional cigarettes are also thrown for a loop. Almost anyone who sees a headline referring to a vaping related illness will envision ENDs, be it a Juul or trumpet sized box mod. The much less common black market THC cart, which isn’t even referred to as an e-cig, is not what comes to mind.

And as always, it is marginalized groups that suffer during vaping crackdowns.

Zombie Vaping Myths

If there is one constant in the anti-vaper playbook it is that their Zombie Vaping Myths never die. Whether it is a vaping heart attack study in need of retraction, the old popcorn lung canard, the debunked toxic metals in ecigs study, or the fallacy that sweet vape flavors were formulated to hook children, the number of falsehoods levied at vaping and vape manufacturers is staggering.

These memes are recycled endlessly and repetitiously treated as if they are serious critiques of vaping.

It does not matter how many times they are disproved. Human nature is such that it is almost impossible to unring the bell of fear. Concerns about ENDs will not dissipate, even when this sad chapter is closed by the CDC, and a final report that clarifies that electronic nicotine delivery systems were not involved. When is the last time you saw a scientific retraction as a headline?

Choosing ambiguous headlines with generic references to “vaping” is classic click bait writing. But we should demand more from the CDC. Dangers of E-Cig Marketing

Social Media and E-Cigs

Due to the teen vaping epidemic, misplaced concerns about vaping have reached critical mass. A Stanford University study on e-cig marketing, an embarrassing exercise in “soft science” that is nothing more than a curated slideshow written from an anti-vaping point of view, is cited as proof that vaping companies market to children.

The fact that vaping critics take this Stanford study seriously is disconcerting. The burden of proof is apparently lowered when your agenda is to ban ecigs and are looking to dig up dirt.

The huge declines in smoking did not impact most of the millennial generation, ages 25 to 39, but seeking customers from this substantial adult audience has somehow been construed as marketing to kids.

Millennial does not equal minor. We have no interest in selling our products to minors or non-smokers. Adults who happened to have started smoking during this century are always welcome.