The Media’s Vaping Alarmism Had Lethal Consequences, New Study Finds

In case you needed another reminder of why you shouldn’t outsource your thinking to the establishment media.

People are naturally skeptical and even scared of new technological innovations. Unfortunately, the establishment media has historically leaned into this irrational apprehension rather than served as a check against it. As Robby Soave has detailed, every major technological innovation in the last 150 years—from the radio to the bicycle—has been met by media hand-wringing about the supposed threat it poses to society. 

E-cigarettes and vaping have, unfortunately, received similarly hysterical media treatment. And a new study suggests that the media’s vaping fear mongering may have had lethal consequences.

Here are some example headlines from the New York Times and CNN:

  • “The Mysterious Vaping Illness That’s ‘Becoming an Epidemic’”
  • “Vaping Now an Epidemic Among US High Schoolers”
  • “‘I Can’t Stop’: Schools Struggle With Vaping Explosion”
  • “Juul E-cigarettes and Teens: ‘Health Problem of the Decade’?”

Are you scared yet?

If all one read was mainstream media coverage of the rise of vaping, you’d think it’s a deadly, addictive trend that’s hooking teenagers and killing people by the thousands. 

You’d also happen to be wrong.

The great panic over “vaping illness” and “vaping deaths” in 2019 was exhibit A of the media’s mythmaking. While tragic, these deaths and illnesses that were used to stir up fear over vaping almost exclusively turned out to be related to black market THC products, not legal vaping products. 

While it’s certainly not the healthiest habit, the fact is vaping is nowhere near as bad for you as traditional cigarette smoking

Yes, it often involves nicotine consumption, but nicotine isn’t what gives you cancer—black tar and the other carcinogens included in traditional cigarettes are what cause cancer. So, vaping doesn’t have most of the health risks associated with smoking. Indeed, public health experts have even estimated that vaping is 95% healthier than traditional cigarette smoking.

But, in large part thanks to the media’s panic porn, the public is totally misinformed about this reality. Published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, the aforementioned new study examined the “information shock” created by the media’s misleading, hysterical coverage of the 2019 “vaping-related” illness outbreak.

We find that after the outbreak, consumer perceptions of the riskiness of e-cigarettes sharply increased, so that in contrast to almost all experts, the majority of consumers perceive e-cigarettes to be relatively and absolutely riskier than cigarettes,” the authors report. 

That’s right: The public has it exactly backward. 

The study further concludes that the media’s alarmism led to a 30% reduction in demand for e-cigarettes and a 30% decline in their usage for quitting traditional smoking. As a result, the experts report that “the reduced smoking cessation due to the information shock will in turn increase smoking-related illness and death.”

Let me explain in no uncertain terms what this means. Because the media ginned up baseless panic and hysteria over vaping—and many politicians and government officials fell for it—more Americans will die from lung cancer. This wasn’t their intention, but it is nonetheless the result of their incompetence.

The takeaway here is clear. 

Think for yourself. Do your own research. And don’t outsource your thinking to a mainstream media and political class that has such an abysmal track record. 

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Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of Based Politics. His work has been cited by top lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Pat Toomey, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, Congressman Thomas Massie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, as well as by prominent media personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Sean Hannity, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin. Brad has also testified before the US Senate, appeared on Fox News and Fox Business, and written for publications such as USA Today, National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. He hosts the Breaking Boundaries podcast and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.