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“The Week” that Wasn’t: Facts and Half-facts in the Press on Vaping

The news magazine The Week has brought out an article on the controversies swirling around vaping. It says some things that are true, and some things that are "half-true" – the same half-truths that characterize the allegations of anti-vaping advocates. Here are some of them.

The Week: "Some brands contain diethylene glycol, which is also found in anti-freeze."

The fact: When the FDA studied e-liquid components in 2010, one of them contained trace amounts of diethylene glycol, which is used in automotive anti-freeze. ("Trace amounts" are those permitted by regulators because the concentration levels are too low to be harmful, a distinction which is typically ignored by vaping opponents, when they talk about toxic substances.) This substance has been shunned by reputable e-liquid suppliers since that time. The industry standard is now propylene glycol, which also has temperature-reduction-retardant properties, and which is approved by the FDA for use in hundreds of foods, cosmetics, and other substances in everyday use by virtually everybody. This standard, already enforced by self-policing in the industry, will be further enforced by coming regulations.

The Week: "A U.S. study found smokers using e-cigs were no more likely to succeed in quitting."

The fact: The study in question measured success rates for vapers against those for all other quit methods combined, and when vaping success did not exceed the combined totals, proclaimed it a failure, even though measured against individual methods such as the nicotine patch, vaping was proven to perform marginally better. The study in question went on to opine that, because it did not outperform all the other methods combined, vaping was likely to deter people from trying the other methods, "proving" that vaping is a deterrent to quitting.

The Week: "The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recently reported that 260,000 [youths] had tried e-cigarettes in 2013...."

The fact: The statistic on those who "tried" electronic cigarettes included youths who had taken one experimental puff.

The Week: "Youths who tried e-cigarettes were six time more likely to take up smoking than those who didn't."

The fact: The CDC questionnaire surveying youth nicotine habits asked whether they would smoke a cigarette in the future, if it were offered by a friend. Multiple choice options included: "Definitely", "Definitely not", "Probably", and "Probably not". In the interpretation of the data, all those answering "Definitely", "Probably", and "Probably not" were included in the statistic for those who would [definitely] graduate from vaping to smoking.

It's an uphill battle when your opponents are adept at manipulating data to give a false impression. But it's a battle that vapers are valiantly continuing to wage.