Shock Jocks and The Truth

The testimonials and real life experiences of the thousands of smokers who have used e-cigarettes to transition away from combustion is a powerful narrative.  A narrative that has never been articulated in the media. The smoking rate in Aotearoa/New Zealand has dropped dramatically in the past five years, in no small part due to the availability and access to e-cigarettes by smokers.

Instead, the public is only exposed to anti vape commentary by groups such as the Asthma Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand, The Cancer Society  and the Secondary Principals Association. This is further promoted and presented by media personalities such as Duncan Garner and Mike Hosking, who use their “journalist” credentials to present their biased and ignorant views on the issues.  Duncan Garner’s recent rant that “e-cigarettes are a fashion crime” shows that he completely misses the point of Tobacco Harm Reduction and how the technology has helped thousands of Kiwis get off the smokes.  

Mike Hoskings has had a couple of rants on radio and television that were picked up by the New Zealand Herald, where he called the use of e-cigarettes “a scandal which well, and can only end in misery” after a report out of Australia where lab techs exposed lung tissue in a petri dish to eliquid and they extrapolated that information to human disease.   A flawed methodology as living human cells have immune responses and defenses that cells in a petri dish do not have. Hoskings has also lauded the fact that India has banned vaping.  This in a country with over a billion people, of whom millions use tobacco products that are now left without a proven safer alternative. Hoskings keeps spouting on about “12 year olds vaping” as a means of creating moral outrage to validate his opinion.   And that is all it is, an opinion and not based on fact. 

Duncan Garner has taken the tack of saying that vape is a fad and just as unhealthy as smoking.  Garner himself has said “Tell us the truth about them, put the information in front of the public. Then decide – if they are the answer, then open the floodgates by all means, but until then, we just don’t know.”   YET, he refuses to acknowledge science, research and evidence to the contrary of his personal opinion (that he presents as fact to the public.

Both Hoskings and Garner are choosing to scaremonger while ignoring the facts such as the RCP and PHE UK studies that have shown that vaping is 95% less harmful than tobacco.  And also that second hand vapour aerosol does not carry the same harms as tobacco smoke, such as heavy metals, arsenic and formaldehyde. The Public Health England report  concluded “that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits, but it found that “there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders”.

Both of these individuals have publicised the so-called  “youth vaping epidemic”.   His bleating about the “epidemic” has centred around an informal study done by the Cancer Society and the perceptions and opinions of secondary school principals that said “30-40% of youth are vaping” in their schools.  The Cancer Society study consisted of youth being asked of their awareness of vaping. It did not take into consideration actual short or long term use or experimentation by youth. Neither presented evidence of confiscated equipment to validate their claims.  All of these parties have not taken into consideration the verified ASH study and University of Auckland research that shows that only 3% of youth regularly vape in the 15-17 year old age group.

As we have stated before, the simple way to restrict access to children is to actually make it illegal for anyone under 18, which it currently is not here in Aotearoa/New Zealand. That would allow adults to make their own informed choices with a wide variety of products – choice is the core reason why it is so effective for smoking cessation. Using their public personas and their media to sway public opinion against the technology and consumer access to the safer alternative to smoking is foolish and dangerous. Excluding the people who have benefited from the technology, in order to assist those who may benefit from tobacco harm reduction through vaping, is a crime against humanity.

The New Zealand media has done a great disservice to the thousands of remaining smokers who may have been scared away from a safer alternative by biased reporting, misinformation and the lack of inclusive narratives from all sides of the issue.   

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