How Safe Is The BBC?

Posted 3rd October 2019 by Dave Cross
Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, appeared on Radio 4’s Today program recently. While this ought to be the norm for commentary on scientific matters relating to tobacco harm reduction, the BBC appears to be using more stories originating from the United States – copy-pasted directly onto its website unchallenged.

In the last month, the BBC has reported on nine times on its site in addition to chat shows, radio interviews and “investigative” specials. Of those nine stories, eight were wholly negative or carried ridiculous negative statemements purporting to be facts:

American deaths being related to vaping [link]

  • “One of the most shocking stories was of 18-year-old Simah Herman, who posted a picture of herself online after waking up from a medically induced coma.
  • “This is not the first time vaping has given cause for concern. The British Medical Journal published a report last year of a woman who was hospitalised with a cough, fever, night sweats and respiratory failure,” where they regurgitate Stanton Glantz’s press release.
  • “As well as being linked to lung problems, there have also been reports of vape pens exploding - in rare cases with fatal consequences.”

India ban – [link]

  • “Vaping… its impact on health is still not fully known.”
  • “Young people saw vaping as a ‘style statement’.”
  • “It is in the public interest to ensure vaping doesn't become an "epidemic" among young people.”

Death in Oregon – [link]

  • “A second person has died … from a severe lung disease apparently caused by vaping.”
  • “All cases involve vaping in some form.”
  • "There's a variety of harmful ingredients identified, including things like ultrafine particulates, heavy metals like lead and cancer causing chemicals.”

Trump’s Ban – [link]

  • “Vaping was a ‘new problem’, especially for children”
  • “Six deaths and 450 reported cases of lung illness tied to vaping”

JUUL Ignored ad laws – [link]

  • “Deadly lung illness potentially linked to vaping products.”
  • “The agency said it is examining more than 450 cases of lung illnesses.”

Michigan ban – [link]

  • “An explosive increase in the number of Michigan kids exposed to vaping products”
  • “A sharp and startling reversal of overall declines in tobacco use among young people”
  • “Epidemic of youth e-cigarette use”
  • “Outbreak in illnesses associated with e-cigarettes”
  • “There are 15,000 flavours on the market … cotton candy and gummy bear”

Vaping deaths – [link]

  • “Doctors … are warning people not to use e-cigarettes”
  • “Six deaths linked to vaping”
  • “Health experts … say there's a long-term addiction crisis”

A misteriosa doença ligada a cigarros eletrônicos que já matou seis pessoas nos EUA – [link]

Seeking balance does not mean referring to unrelated deaths or exploding batteries in every article. A balanced article relies on genuine experts dispassionately explaining facts, not sharing their opinions or reporting the views of ignoramuses. Geographical issues do not include comments from flat earthers, the BBC does not rush to grab the opinion of an anti-vaxer every time it covers an aspect of medicine.

In addition, asking Martin McKee, Stanton Glantz or Simon Capewell to comment on tobacco harm reduction related matters is like asking someone who watched The Clangers to comment on astronomy or space exploration. For as long as the BBC continues to use them and press releases from the United States, some will consider it so broken that not even Sean Bean could help.

For every single story, the BBC should be quoting either John Newton, John Briton, Martin Dockrell, Robert West, Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK, the New Nicotine Alliance, or any of the other genuine experts in this area.

Related:

  • “How Safe Is Vaping?” with Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England – [link]
 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker