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Mother Jones spews anti-vaping rhetoric by citing bogus vape study

Posted by Matt Rowland on

Mother Jones is often considered one of the more reputable news organizations online, but even their reporters can easily fall victim to biased vape studies released in cooperation with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   The vaping industry is once again under attack by a CDC-supported “giant study” recently posted in the online Pediatrics journal.  It claims that e-cigarettes are enticing teens to vape who otherwise normally would not smoke a conventional cigarette. 

But the research is filled with many holes.  By collecting data from a cross-sectional selection of sixth through twelfth graders, the researchers came to the conclusion that the rate of decline in teen smoking between 2009 to 2014 is no different from the rate of decline from five years preceding.  Normally, scientific evidence showing that teen smoking has been consistently dropping since 2005 would be considered good news.  But not at Mother Jones and certainly not at the CDC.

Mother Jones fails to cite the flaws in the CDC study

By diving deeper into the Pediatrics report, we find that the co-authors further claim that e-cigs are in no way contributing to this rapid decline in teen smoking.  In fact, vaping is blamed for attracting youth to smoke rather than curbing them.  And Mother Jones bought right into the argument without even investigating the study’s research techniques.

(Related Article:  New BC vaping study: ‘Fears of a gateway effect are unjustified and overblown’ )

If electronic cigarettes are in no way responsible for the decline in teen smoking, then how can they be blamed for attracting teens to smoke?  The logic simply does not make sense.  Either teens are smoking more or they are smoking less.  So, which is it?  Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health points out another major flaw in the CDC study’s findings.

“There is a more technical flaw with the analysis as well. The investigators choose a split point of 2009 to test the before and after trends in smoking. But there was little difference in youth smoking as measured by the NYTS between 2009 and 2011. Thus, using 2009 as the split point creates an artificially low estimate of the decline in youth smoking from 2011 to 2014. You can see from Figure 1 in the paper that there was a substantial increase in the rate of decline in youth smoking from 2011 to 2014, compared to the period from 2004 to 2011. That the model used in the paper doesn't fit the data is clear from how far off the 2011 data point is from the trend line.”

Mother Jones quotes Stanton Glatz

To further support the drive home the study’s unsubstantiated claims, the Mother Jones reporter solicited a comment from Stanton Glantz, one of the co-authors of the study and perhaps the most notorious scientist-for-hire for the anti-vaping movement.  Glantz makes the giant leap to conclude that “E-cigarettes are encouraging—not discouraging—youth to smoke.”   Even though the study’s findings offer no scientific evidence to validate this outlandish claim, Mother Jones still reports the quote.

(Related Article:  Ethics in science: New study warns against telling smokers of tobacco toxicity)

Perhaps in an effort to appear somewhat unbiased in their reporting, the Mother Jones reporter allowed Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association to issue a brief (very brief) statement.  Of course, Conley’s quote is buried deep towards the end of the article, and it is not even printed in its entirety.

“Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association, says that the study's findings ‘strain credulity,’ as youth smoking is rapidly declining, teens typically use vapor products occasionally rather than habitually, and ‘only a fraction of recent users report using the products with nicotine.’”

The real problem with the Mother Jones article is the headline itself, Giant Study Shows That—Surprise!—Vaping Entices Non-Smokers. The headline is essentially misleading because the study proves no such thing.  The co-authors only claim to reach to this conclusion without offering any substantive data to back it up. 

The vaping industry deserves professional news organizations who are not afraid to question the authors of these CDC-supported “vape studies.”  Vaping and e-cigs have helped millions of people to quit smoking while also dramatically improving their long-term health.  The Mother Jones article fails to mention any of the positive health benefits of vaping whatsoever.  But the headline sure is attention-grabbing!

(Related Article:  Virginia and vaping: New study proves e-cigs are not a gateway to smoking)


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