The problems faced by vapers are two-fold; one being the public’s ignorance of research carried out to date by scientists and the other is the need for media to sell advertising space.
Good news stories are something that went by the wayside when “That’s Life” ceased showing the nation a collection of funny shaped vegetables. Now a story simply isn’t a story unless it has been, in their words, “sexed up”.
It’s common knowledge that newspaper sales are flagging and so there has become an ever-increasing drive to sensationalise online stories to drive up website hit-rates and the resulting click-through advert revenue.
It’s not just confined to news stories either; we have witnessed a large growth in the number of junk science articles masquerading as peer-reviewed papers.
Dr. Gil Ross of ACSH recently commented that the urge to publish something, anything, often skips the ethics of journals and institutions. He is particularly damning about the proliferation of open-access websites where submitters pay to publish.
He notes that so many papers now either produce papers for the masses or carry nothing more than the details of research yet to take place highlighting the “anticipated” results.
Shock horror has never impacted on e cigs in quite the manner than this week’s furore over the grandma who managed to set fire to herself in hospital. What set this story apart from all previous articles on the dangers of e cigs was the extent to which every single media outlet covered it.
Not only did all of the mainstream news print media go into shock meltdown on their websites but, slightly more worrying, so to did the medical professional journals that we’d hope would otherwise maintain a more balanced approach. It demonstrated the extent to which education of the media and the public really needs to be stepped up a notch. In fact the only people keeping an open mind on the subject appeared to be the fire service that, if you looked hard enough, were quoted in some articles as describing it as an accident.
Understandably, threads began to appear on vaping-related forums and social media buzzed with the news and expressions of disbelief.
For a start, oxygen is not explosive – it’s a question of simple science. Oxygen aids combustion but anyone with a school-level grasp of chemistry will have been able to work out that the e cigarette could not have caused an explosion.
Step forward the wonderful Graham Entwistle and his oxy-acetylene Youtube experiment. In it Graham demonstrates how difficult it is to get a material to burn using a serious sub-ohm dripper. The he demonstrates how using it with oxygen still doesn’t produce the fireball that horrified The Sun.
And then, tucked away at the top of the following day’s paper came the news we had suspected: the dear old thing had taken an e cigarette and tried to light it using a lighter; a lighter full of highly flammable lighter fluid.
So, the true picture emerges and although the dear lady may have owned an e cigarette…and may have even been using it at the time…the actual story involves an oxygen mask and a lighter in a hospital ward. Police later made the statement
“The most likely cause was a cigarette lighter.”
It is a shocking event, tragic for the poor woman concerned, but of great interest to see how quickly the media were to apportion blame onto something that is continually being misrepresented.
What does this tell us?
E cigarette vendors have a body, ECITA, that represents their businesses. Vapers have ECCA that represents our interests as consumers. It is high time that both ECITA and ECCA raised their public profile with their interactions with opinion-forming media journalists. Without a more proactive stance vaping is going to crash and burn.