According to the documentary, teenagers make up 20-25% of electronic cigarette users. Spurred on by the Food and Drug Administration’s “Epidemic” fear campaign, the show spoke about “an alarming surge” in teen vaping.
John Newton described vaping as 95% less harmful than cigarettes. He said it would be “tragic” if people kept smoking cigarettes because they haven’t tried vaping.
CNBC's Carl Quintanilla spoke about how the debate surrounding vaping and tobacco harm reduction has become polarised yet proceeded to add to it by turning the show into an exceptionally unbalanced presentation of the facts.
Rather than focussing on Professor Newton’s measured 6-minute presentation of facts and evidence, time was given to JUUL Labs’ CEO Kevin Burns apologising for (and legitimising) youths using the company’s products.
Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s Charles Gardner called Quintilla an “idiot American interviewer”. He says that Quintilla told Newton “that the US has 70%-100% teen vaping.”
“(He) was doing a hit piece. You can see it on his face. He didn't like any of the TRUTH he was hearing from Public Health England's Director. It just didn't fit Carl's alternate facts.”
Quintilla responded by saying: “Love the fire.”
“The fire is stoked by a serious concern,” replied Gardner. “34 million smokers in the US are now increasingly misinformed by a very well-funded anti-vaping propaganda campaign. 1.3 billion smokers worldwide, increasingly misinformed by misinformation spewing out of the US. Half of them will die.”
The misinformation was heavily supported during the program, a couple of minutes given to harm reduction experts yet many more devoted to ‘fear’ cottage industry cranks and science denialists.
“If it bleeds it leads. And if, by bleeding and leading, it kills people? Misinformation in this crazy space is killing people. It seems journalists don't know or care,” continued Gardner.
“Millions of US adult smokers have switched to vaping. How many of them did you interview to learn about that experience? With teen vapers, did you ask even one of them this key question: Did you smoke before vaping? (hint: almost all did).”
Quintilla was “glad it set off a spirited debate.”
The problem is that this show didn’t trigger a spirited debate. It was more akin to someone finding a potential conflict in a bar and offering soothing words of diplomacy such as “Hit him, Carl! His Mum looked at your pint funny. Mess him up good!”
Or, in Charles Gardner’s words, it was the “equivalent to giving equal time to anti-vaxxers and public health experts. Or climate change deniers and climate scientists. Or Moon landing conspiracy theorists and an astronaut who actually walked on the Moon.”