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NPR passes errors along

National Public Radio reported recently on the letter sent to the FDA by 29 US state Attorneys General, advocating tight restrictions on electronic cigarettes. (For some reason, the state legal honchos sent the letter as a .pdf document instead of as part of the comments process involved in the deeming regulations.) The article passes along several key errors typical of misinformed commentators on vaping. It is distressing to see a usually reputable news source, one normally characterized by the highest journalistic standards, fall victim to such glaring errors.

The article reproduces, without comment, a misinformed quotation by New York AG Eric Schneiderman. "E-cigarettes have all the addictive qualities of regular, combustible cigarettes," claims Schneiderman in the first of his errors. In fact, informed nicotine scientists note the presence in cigarette smoke of a variety of alkaloids (particularly monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs) which seem to exacerbate the addictive character of smoking actual cigarettes. The few smokers who have trouble quitting smoking by vaping seem to return to deadly smokes because of these alkaloids. So vaped nicotine does NOT have ALL the addictive qualities of smoked nicotine. Schneiderman is simply passing along something he has heard about addictive nicotine, and adding a dollop of exaggeration. Rather typical of the anti-vaping crowd.

Schneiderman's statement, uncritically passed along by NPR, goes on to rail at e-cigarette concerns for advertising their product effectively, in the manner of cigarette ads of old, as though advertising a product by making it look attractive were somehow sinister in and of itself. Another familiar chorus from the hymn-book of anti-vapers. And a final fillip – no surprises – please turn in your hymnals to the song about "re-glamorizing smoking". The honorable state attorney is not up with the times, and has missed the reports of "cloud contests" in vape lounges. Wake up and smell the coffee, Gramps! It's mod vaporizers that are glamorous now, not cigarettes or even e-cigs, which are both sliding in popularity as the tanks approach. This whole quote is presented by the NPR reporter as though it were accurate.

NPR goes on to cite the Wall Street Journal to the effect that "the popularity of e-cigarettes is growing." Wrong again. The popularity of vaping products is growing, a category dominated for some months now by vapor-tank systems, while e-cigs ("cigalikes") decline within that category. The whole focus is changing from the imitation of smoking to vaping as something quite new, something attractive and popular in its own right, decreasingly linked to the smoking experience. A few journalistic acolytes of Big Tobacco have ridiculously tried to portray the slide of e-cigs as indicative of a return to combustible smoking. Nonsense! The decline of cigarettes continues apace – the shipments of tobacco have fallen so far below anticipated declines that tobacco bonds, for which dividends are linked to a supposed 3% decline, may default. E-cigs on the rise? Guess again! Mods are on the rise, and they're a phenomenon of the vaping community, which is getting ever angrier at Big Tobacco, and showing it by ignoring their cigalikes.

The article goes on to say that "the jury is still out on the health effects of the devices." Wrong again. The jury is out, not on "whether" vaping is less harmful than smoking, but only on "how much" safer it is – is it 10 times safer or 100 times or 1000 times? This distinction is typically blurred by anti-vaping advocates, who insist that vaping should be 100% safe. A moment's thought by any clear-thinking person makes it obvious that nothing is 100% safe, even the air you breathe. Indeed especially the air you breathe in any industrial center.

In a final fillip, the NPR reporter turns for counsel to – of all places! – the University of California at San Francisco. This is a bit like asking the chapter president of the National Rifle Association whether gun control is a good thing. UCSF faculty are noted for biased opposition to vaping, and for skewing their data to misinform on this issue. So an unidentified UCSF source (hmmm... who could it be?) states that health effects of e-cigarettes are unknown, and that they emit harmful substances into the air. That's last year's data, as a simple glance (pun intended) at current studies shows. The claim is at best a highly questionable one, and increasingly accepted as false (especially as the distinction between trace amounts and dangerous amounts is ignored).

The article concludes with a quote from the UCSF source stating that e-cig use reduces the likelihood of quitting smoking. We've seen these "studies". They count as failure any success rate less than the total of all other methods combined, and then argue that this outcome proves e-cigs deter quitting. They count radical reduction of smoking as a cessation failure. UCSF statistics on e-cigarettes are a signal illustration of Mark Twain's famous observation on lying, a quotation enshrined in American culture. The great American humorist claimed that there are 3 kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. UCSF statistics on vaping are a case in point. How embarrassing for NPR to have been taken in.