Vaping News

E-smoking: Damned By The Name

Media sources persist in using the term ‘smoking’ when they mean ‘vaping’.

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Advocates would be forgiven for nursing sore heads and patching up walls after being compelled to bang something every time a newspaper uses loaded terms in its coverage of vaping. Most wish that any reference to ‘cigarette’ could be removed from ‘electronic cigarette’. Even articles that may otherwise be seen as supportive can drape the tone in a cloud through the choice of terms.

Words are important; the words we choose to use define the meaning we wish to convey. It is our choice of words online that is being used against us by Rebecca Williams from University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Centre. Referring to the study that analysed Google search terms, she is annoyed that people moved from using words like “ecigs” to typing in “vape” and “vaping”. It is, she believes, as though we are trying not to be found out for our dirty electronic smoking habit.

“The e-cigarette industry, the media, and the vaping community have promoted the notion that e-cigarettes are an effective device for quitting smoking, yet what we're seeing is that there are very few people searching for information about that,” she posited as if that meant anything. “They are more commonly searching for terms like 'buy,' shop,' or 'sale'.”

The think that may be rather obvious to us and not to Williams is that maybe the safety message is easy to find without a search and that vapers do not need to continually check on safety aspects on a weekly basis once started. There could be a whole plethora of reasons why searches have changed but it’s an indication that something bad is afoot for Rebecca.

Maybe she should ask why the Times, a newspaper with aspirations to quality news coverage, should (when publishing an article this week about vaping) refer to the devices we use as “smokeless cigarettes”? The truth is that the piece was about the new tobacco-based heated-not-burnt heat sticks being produced by tobacco companies – but the large image under the heading was a Gen 2 device. In this case the wording may have been correct but, in a piece decrying Phillip Morris for blurring lines and raising confusion, they rubbed the lines out altogether.

Meanwhile, in the Economist, an otherwise positive article is totally killed by its headline. “Why e-smoking is flourishing,” the banner states to any cringing vaper. E-smoking? The piece covers how much vapers can save compared to their old smoking habit, and the success of being able to quit – but e-smoking? These words damn us and fuel those opposed to vaping.

The words we use define who we are and what we do, it is why those who would impose strict bans are keen to persist with old epithets and hold on to their love of “cigarette” and “smoke”. It is the power that language gives them that allows them to persist in “lying about Snus and E-cigarettes” which is “like blocking access to clean heroin needles.

Perhaps the most important battle with politicians and public health opponents is the easiest fight? Perhaps it’s no more than defining the language we wish to use.

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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