Friday 6 March 2020

RNZ and the damage done

Last spring, Radio New Zealand engaged in a lot of scaremongering about vaping. 

Whether it was deliberate, or whether it was due to hurried journalists relying on bad reporting by the CDC, who knows. Probably the latter, but that they refused to consider contrary evidence may suggest the former.

But RNZ's reporting would have left Kiwis with the distinct impression that regular nicotine vaping in the United States was causing fatalities. Those fatalities were really due to use of contaminated illicit THC cartridges. And it was obvious really early on that this wasn't a vaping thing. Vaping had been around for a decade prior to this fast outbreak in the United States. Why did it show up all of a sudden? Why in the US and not the UK? It very quickly looked far more like poisoning from a contaminant rather than some long-term consequence of vaping finally showing up.

Public Health England's now released a report on the damage done by media scaremongering about the US outbreak. The Otago Daily Times covers it well. I haven't seen anything on it from Radio New Zealand. Alas.

Some relevant findings:
The spate of lung injuries and deaths in the US is not attributable to the regulated nicotine vaping products currently sold in England. But all suspected adverse reactions or suspected deaths need to be assessed.

The conclusions of our previous reports are still important messages for preventing harm. These can be broadly summarised as:
  1. Vaping regulated nicotine products has a small fraction of the risks of smoking, but this does not mean it is safe.
  2. Smokers should be encouraged to try regulated nicotine vaping products along with smoking cessation medications and behavioural support. This will greatly increase their chances of successfully stopping smoking.
  3. People who have never smoked should be encouraged not to smoke and not to vape.
  4. Vapers should be encouraged to use regulated nicotine products only and stop smoking completely.
The data presented here suggest that vaping has not undermined the declines in adult smoking.

Increasingly incorrect perceptions among the public about the harms of vaping could prevent some smokers using vaping products to quit smoking.

A ban on flavoured liquids could have adverse effects and unintended consequences for smokers using vaping products to quit. It should only be considered with caution. 
The study also suggests youth vaping is rare; fewer than 1% of young people who have never smoked are current vapers. And there has been substantial decline in youth smoking. But:
Current smoking prevalence (weekly or less than weekly) among 11- to 15-year-olds halved between 2009 (11%) and 2018 (5%) but has remained relatively steady since 2014.

Young people’s perceptions of the relative harms of vaping compared with smoking are increasingly out of line with the evidence. The proportion of 11- to 18-year-olds who thought that vaping was less harmful than cigarettes declined from 68% in 2014 to 52% in 2019.
Increasingly incorrect perceptions among the public about the harms of vaping. Whatever could be causing that?

I wish there were similar data here.


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