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Viral Dangers

How should we deal with negative vaping stories in the media?

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As vapers we are all fully aware of the things that happen in the media. Stories of dangers are commonplace because fear and shock drive readers to the websites. Links to the stories are then copy pasted onto forums and other forms of social media; the stories begin to trend. Newspaper advertising space sales executives rub their hands in glee. But do other vapers do us a disservice by doing this?

Some may be conversant with the tale of a man claiming: “vaping burned a hole in my lungs” in The Sun. It’s a tale retold in The Telegraph under the banner: “Man left with hole in lung after e-cigarette spits out burning nicotine”. Usually we would link to the articles concerned but we won’t, you’ll have to take our word for it that quotes are accurate.

Essentially, The Telegraph is a direct copy of The Sun’s shoddy piece. It’s a story so factually inaccurate it bears more similarity with a Sunday Sport feature about Elvis living on the Moon with Red Rum than anything representing journalistic integrity. We could go through the code of ethics that the News International journalist, James Mills, elected to ignore. We could, but let’s pull his miserable piece apart instead.

The heading is wrong, a hole was not burned in the man’s lungs because if it had happened it would have been a miracle to rival that of giving fish and bread-based snacks to a multitude. The spit of scalding eliquid would have had to miss the mouth, the tongue and then curve around the back of the throat to vanish down the trachea. It would then have to navigate junctions at the bronchi and the bronchioles before finally coming to rest in an alveolus. It’s a series of events so improbable you are more likely to discover Santa exists and a Mercedes driver who knows what the car’s indicator switch does.

In fact, it is probably easier to believe that the gentleman actually spent the claimed £100 on a 30W iStick and a Subtank Mini. His protestations are that he tasted eliquid and, after he arrived at hospital, “one of the nurses there put my vape on an oxygen tube and showed that it was spitting liquid out.”

He claimed to have only 25% lung function and yet Mills didn’t obtain a quote from the hospital or the doctor. There is absolutely no corroboration for the article or how a man with lungs in such a damaged condition was allowed to leave the following day with an inhaler.

So what was wrong with him? Doctor Konstantinos states on his Facebook page that the symptoms presented are those of a patient suffering from “spontaneous pneumothorax, for which smoking (current or past) is a risk factor.”

Genetics Home Reference writes: “Primary spontaneous pneumothorax is an abnormal accumulation of air in the space between the lungs and the chest cavity that can result in the partial or complete collapse of a lung. This type of pneumothorax is described as primary because it occurs in the absence of lung disease such as emphysema. Spontaneous means the pneumothorax was not caused by an injury such as a rib fracture. Primary spontaneous pneumothorax is likely due to the formation of small sacs of air in lung tissue that rupture, causing air to leak into the pleural space. Air in the pleural space creates pressure on the lung and can lead to its collapse. A person with this condition may feel chest pain on the side of the collapsed lung and shortness of breath.”

The likelihood is, given his prompt discharge, that it wasn’t that serious. But the story does raise questions for vapers: how should we be treating them? It is clear that the article is a combination of exaggeration and outright lies, devoid of any supporting professional statements. The only result has been to accelerate the promotion of the piece and drive people to the newspaper’s website to read it. They care little for accuracy, just for the revenue it might generate from adverts being clicked on.

So should we begin ignoring such stories? Matt from Suck My Mod certainly thinks so. In the past “I would see stuff and I would post it online and debunk it,” he says, “but I’m kinda at the point now where some of these things we shouldn’t be making viral.”

Could it be that the best thing to do in the interest of vaping is not to counter the falsehoods but to begin ignoring them? “I’m not saying we should never talk about it,” he continues in his video, “but maybe we shouldn’t give some things legs when they wouldn’t have had legs at all. It’s not always good to make something viral.”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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