Public health expert says ‘moral panic’ over teen vaping is vastly overblown
The United States is not the only country struggling with vaping regulations. A multitude of recently published surveys now seemingly indicate that a significant percentage of the global population is under the mistaken assumption that vaping is just as deadly as smoking. In fact, the results of a survey conducted by scientists from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) shows that a whopping nine percent of Americans believe that vaping is even worse than combustible tobacco products.
It’s alarming public misconceptions like these that are the basis for a Regulator Watch interview with Dr. Mark Tyndall, Professor of Public Health at the University of British Columbia. In one portion of the interview, host Brett Stafford discusses Canada’s apparent second thoughts about its passing of pro-vaping legislations last year. He asks Mr. Tyndall how a product that was once thought to be perfectly safe could all of a sudden be perceived as “unstable” and a “disaster” in the eyes of Canadian health officials.
“Well, the timing is sort of interesting, It’s more based on the legislation not the introduction of vaping, which has been around for a few years now and accessible to people. So, I don’t know what magically happened in the fall (of 2018) to make it this ‘crisis.” I mean, you look at a lot of public health events, this idea of moral panic is not an uncommon response. So when something new is coming, and it’s of a demonized, unknowing product, the media gets ahold of it, and it can really create a whole narrative that has really nothing to do with what’s going on on-the-ground but has a life of its own. And the ‘youth vaping epidemic’ falls into this moral panic category.”
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Moral panic aside, Tyndall largely blames mainstream media for the spreading of disinformation and fear-monger about vaping. Expressing his opinions in a candid but non-confrontational manner, Tyndall falls short of accusing the media of intentionally falsifying the facts, however. Rather, he seems to paint media outlets as unwitting accomplices who are focusing more on the creation of attention-grabbing headlines instead of the many health advantages of switching to vaping.
“Certainly, the media is really focused on the unintended consequences of this technology (vaping) as it relates to new entrance into nicotine – which is youth. And rarely does the conversation ever start with the great potential that this has currently for people who are using combustible tobacco…there is still so much misinformation out there, and I think as public health people, we haven’t done a very good job of getting any truth or real information out to people.”
Misconception: Vaping has too many chemicals
Midway through the interview, Dr. Tyndall tells a story about a conversation that he had with a woman smoking on the sidewalks just outside the Regulator Watch studios. Tyndall sopped and introduced himself before asking the woman why she wasn’t vaping instead of smoking. Her response? “Vaping has too many chemicals.”
“And I said, well, the chemicals that we’re interested in are when you light up your tobacco and that’s when you get all those chemicals. And she said, ‘Oh, no.’ And she pulled out her (cigarette) package and it says ‘no additives.’ And she says, ‘I smoke 100% pure tobacco, and there’s no chemicals in it. But vaping products have chemicals, and I want to avoid that.’”
Of course, Tyndall says that he immediately points out to the grossly misinformed smoker that her facts couldn’t be more wrong. He also educates her about the health hazards of burned tobacco leaves, which is the leading cause of smoking-related deaths and illnesses due to the resulting tar-filled smoke. Since e-liquids are 100% tobacco-free, the vapor from e-cigarettes is far safer by as much as 95 percent.
Teen experimentation is not the same as daily vaping
Tyndall also takes issue with many of the so-called “studies” which claim to support the myth that teen vaping is a national epidemic. As Vapes.com has reported on numerous occasions, many of the co-authors of these anti-vaping studies fail to make clear distinctions between teens who experiment with e-cig usage perhaps once or twice per month and those who are actively vaping on a daily basis.
This failure to clearly define a “teen vaper” is another reason that so many average citizens are so terribly confused. According to Tyndall, school principals and other vaping haters are vastly “overblowing” the argument, and the youth of today are not simply falling for it.
“We’ve talked about ripping doors off stalls of washrooms and stuff in high schools, and it’s like, really? This is like a really over-the-top response to this, and kids need education and the truth…we know that so much from...creating panic, overblowing the argument, youth especially see right through that, like ‘What are you talking about?
To be clear, Mr. Tyndall does not endorse teen vaping, and he only recommends e-cigs as a healthier alternative for addicted, adult smokers. But he also isn’t burying his head in the sand either. Today’s teens experiment – with vaping, alcohol, sex, drugs, and who knows what else. “But for God’s sake. Don’t try (combustible tobacco) cigarettes,” Tyndall states in closing. (To see full interview, visit Regulator Watch with Brent Stafford)
(Image courtesy of Regulator Watch)