Vaping safety: cause for concern or moral panic?

Vaping safety: cause for concern or moral panic?

If, like us, you’re getting a bit tired of vaping being portrayed as a ‘crisis’ and an ‘epidemic' that needs to be eradicated at all costs, read on... In this article we explore the facts behind the pervasive media headlines from 2019.


2019 was a funny old year for the vaping industry - and by ‘funny’, I mean not funny at all and actually deplorable, distressing, and dangerous.


In the first half of 2019 smokers were switching their cigarettes for e-cigarettes in huge numbers; riding the wave of all of the advice from credible official bodies like Public Health England, Cancer Research, Royal College of Physicians, and Action for Smoking Health. Smokers were understanding that, although not completely harmless, switching to vaping was definitely going to benefit their health.


Cut to the second half of the year and a ‘mysterious lung illness’ broke out in America. The media picked up that ball and ran with it so fast that the vaping industry was left in the dust. Suddenly we had reverted to the days when smokers didn’t know if vaping was more or less harmful than vaping. Vapers started ditching their e-cigs and lighting up real cigs. State Governors across America were calling for vaping to be banned!


Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story


Then the CDC finally got their act together and admitted that the lung illnesses and deaths had been caused by illegal THC cartridges, not regular e-liquid. Undeterred, the anti-vaping contingent doubled-down and switched focus to junk science, youth vaping, and flavoured vapes.


Stories about ‘the vaping epidemic’ and ‘the vaping crisis’ dominated the headlines. POTUS Donald Trump proposed that the FDA should ban all e-liquid flavours other than tobacco. American state and public officials picked up their pitchforks and wailed “won’t somebody please think of the children?” in their finest Helen Lovejoy hand-wringing manner.


Lovejoy’s Law


The use of “...think of the children’ isn’t by accident. Moral crusaders often adopt this as their rally cry when arguing contentious issues where they have a weak logical or factual stance.


In an article for Ireland's Sunday Independent, Carol Hunt called the use of the phrase in political debate the "Helen Lovejoy defence" or "Helen Lovejoy syndrome". According to Hunt, it is often invoked in reference to hypothetical children rather than real children actually affected by a problem.


The Lovejoy defence has been used time and again over the years by self titled ‘moral guardians’ looking to pass illogical political or social motions. Anti-trans bathroom laws, internet censorship, same-sex marriage and adoption, missile use defence, even same-sex couples on Strictly Come Dancing! Whenever puritans set out to get something banned that conflicts with their ultra-conservative sensibilities, ‘the children’ are used as an emotional blackmailing tool.


The puritans are coming for your e-cigs


Vaping is the current favourite ‘sin’ that must be eradicated at all costs. Puritans don’t like it when people get enjoyment from things; so the fact that people could actually quit smoking in an enjoyable way really sticks in their craw. How dare ‘deviant’ behaviour such as smoking be rewarded with a pleasurable alternative.


Their strategy is obvious and effective. They amplify and exaggerate the extent and seriousness of the problem. So, for example, a lung illness becomes a ‘vaping crisis’; a small increase in kids experimenting with e-cigs becomes a ‘teen vaping epidemic’.


However, much to their irritation, those claims can be quickly debunked by these pesky things called ‘facts’. The vaping crisis was found to be confined to people vaping illicit THC cartridges cut with vitamin E acetate; and the teen vaping epidemic numbers were completely flawed as the teens surveyed weren’t asked if they vaped regularly. Even if they had just tried vaping once in the last 12 months, they were classified by the study as a teen vaper.


Vaping safety takeaways


This inflated, distorted and, in many cases, ‘fake’ news has led to some of our vape shop peers across the pond fearing for their livelihoods; and for many ex-smokers fearing for their lives if vaping is banned.


It has also led to an uptick in the number of (previously) converted vapers switching back to the ciggies as they’re being led to believe that their nicotine cravings are safer being sated by combustible tobacco rather than by e-cigs.


There is absolutely no sign that there are any plans in the UK to ban e-cigarettes or flavoured e-liquids. That’s because our government and health officials take a sensible harm reduction approach to vaping. Their stance has always been that vaping is not harmless, but it is at least 95% less harmful than smoking. That directive remains the same today, regardless of the misleading messages from the media.


In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to vape or smoke; but we don’t live in a perfect world. While people still have access to cigarettes, they should also have access to their less harmful alternative. One which is scientifically proven to be the most effective method of helping people to quit smoking for good. Otherwise, countless lives that could have been saved will be lost to tobacco related illnesses.


Future generations will look back in astonishment. We’re letting a fantastic health opportunity slip through our fingers for the sake of a handful of moral crusaders, and people that profit from the ongoing success of Big Tobacco. Tragic!



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At Vape UK, we pride ourselves on being responsible vaping advocates. We keep up to date with all of the latest news and studies; we supply high quality TPD compliant vaping products; and we are always on hand to offer helpful and honest advice about vaping. Please get in touch if you have any queries on quitting smoking.

  • Nicola Webster

About the author - Nicola Webster

Nicola Webster works as a researcher, consultant, and content creator for Vape UK and Vape UK CBD. She holds a CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing and has developed her skills and knowledge of analytics and research over a 12 year career in product marketing. Her research led approach to campaigns and content writing ensures the articles she writes for Vape UK always have a basis in fact and cut through the noise. A strong advocate for tobacco harm reduction, Nicola is an ex-smoker thanks to vaping and wants others to understand the benefits of vaping compared to smoking. Outside of content creation and vaping advocacy, Nicola enjoys watching live music, travelling in Southeast Asia, and exploring the beautiful countryside of the South Downs.