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INNCO lambasts mainstream media for bias against vaping

January 7, 2023

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The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) has accused the mainstream media of bias, calling out the refusal to cover a major endorsement of nicotine vaping from top public health experts.

Recently, 15 past-presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT), the world’s top professional society in the field of tobacco control, published a paper rejecting the claims depicting nicotine as a gateway to teen smoking and a ‘brain toxin’.

While the paper, published in the American Journal of Public Health, specifically encouraged the media, legislators, and the general public to re-evaluate negative attitudes toward nicotine vaping, INNCO noted that not one mainstream media platform carried their expert opinion as news.

“Clearly, the mainstream media itself is biassed. It refuses to cover a profound shift underway in expert opinion about safer nicotine alternatives,” the organisation said in a statement.

In the paper, the authors conclude that the impact of vaping for smoking cessation could be much larger if “the public health community paid serious attention to vaping’s potential to help adult smokers, smokers received accurate information about the relative risks of vaping and smoking, and policies were designed with the potential effects on smokers in mind,” adding that this is not happening at present.

“Our goal in this paper is to try to inject some sense of balance, to get public health organisations, the media and legislators to recognize that their appropriate but singular desire to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of kids may actually be harming public health,” Dr. Kenneth Warner, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and the lead author of the paper, told the Michigan News.

Some highlights from the paper include:

  • A call to rebalance society’s consideration of vaping, specifically increasing focus on its potential to increase smoking cessation. The desire to decrease young people’s use of e-cigarettes shouldn’t necessarily overshadow the 480,000 Americans who die annually as a result of smoking.
  • Evidence shows that vaping can increase smoking cessation and is likely more effective than FDA-approved nicotine replacement products like gum and patches.
  • A majority of Americans – including smokers – believe that vaping is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than cigarette smoking. The authors contend that this is due in part to media coverage, 70 per cent of which mentioned vaping risks to kids while only 37 per cent noted the potential benefits for adult smokers. As a result, a singular focus on the welfare of kids serves as a detriment to adult smokers who could benefit from vaping.
  • Vaping risks for kids are real, but evidence of the percentage of kids becoming addicted to nicotine by vaping is much smaller than popularly believed. Smoking rates among adolescents and young adults have fallen at unprecedented rates at the same time as vaping exploded in popularity. This contradicts the idea that vaping increases smoking.

“INNCO abhors misinformation and desperately hopes that journalists will take on the task of ensuring that accurate and potentially lifesaving information about safer nicotine spreads through the mainstream media faster than all other forms of misinformation does,” the consumer body added.

INNCO is a non-profit alliance of 37 independent volunteer-led member organisations around the world dedicated to defending access to harm reduction alternatives for people who use safer nicotine to avoid toxic forms of tobacco.