Broken Big Vape

Posted 3rd December 2019 by Dave Cross
Netflix is currently screening an hour long special on “Big Vape”, claiming it shows “how negligence and deceit in the production and marketing of popular consumer items can result in dire outcomes.” It includes edited interviews with Public Health England’s Martin Dockrell and vice chair of the New Nicotine Alliance Louise Ross.

Netflix is proud to be tackling “the national vaping crisis”, blaming vape devices for the outbreak of lung diseases that even the CDC now attributes to vitamin E acetate in illegal black-market THC products. The other three programs in the series address the subjects of plastic, counterfeit beauty products, and pre-made furniture.

Broken trailer

Needless to say, the vaping episode spends a disproportionate amount of time covering JUUL Labs and its pods – with a focus on teen use.

Earlier on this year Netflix pledged to remove acts of vaping from all of its streamed content following a “study” by the staunchly anti-tobacco harm reduction group Truth Initiative. The paper claimed Netflix depicted “smoking” more than the other TV channels. Conflating vaping with smoking suits Truth Initiatives agenda and Netflix failed to differentiate the two in its decision.

Truth Initiative said, “Netflix had nearly triple the number of tobacco instances (866) compared to the prior year (299),” and “Stranger Things had 262 tobacco depictions in its second season, up from 182 in the first season.”


Taking up a tiny part of “Big Vape”, just over two minutes are given up to the forward-thinking approach to tobacco harm reduction taking place in the United Kingdom.

“When you see somebody vaping, you either see a nicotine addict getting their fix, or you see a smoker who isn’t smoking,” says Martin Dockrell. “I’ve worked in public health for thirty years; it makes my heart sing every time I see a smoker not smoking.”

Moving to Louise Ross making a coffee, symbolic of the level of harm presented by vaping, the voiceover mentions she was wary about vaping to begin with. As the head of Leicester’s smoking cessation service, Louise became a driving force in changing the way the UK sees electronic cigarettes.

“I had these fears that it would renormalise smoking, that young people would get hold of them and start using them and become addicted to nicotine,” said Louise.

“She’s one of those rare people in public health,” commented Martin, “she’s a person who changed her mind about e-cigarettes.”

“The more I found out about vaping and ecigarettes, the more I realized that my fears were unfounded – that actually this was going to be a hugely beneficial way of helping people to stop smoking,” Louise added. “I think that there are some people that, no matter how strong the evidence, will always find a reason not to encourage people to vape. They’re very averse to the idea of recreational nicotine.”

“You know, at the end of this day, are you likely to go home and open a bottle of wine or pour yourself a beer or have a strong coffee? People are realising that they’ve got their own vices – and I think there’s something deeply moralistic about this distaste for nicotine. I say to advisors in stop smoking services, ‘we are a stop smoking service, we’re not a stop nicotine service’.”

Martin added: “Look, if the choice is between e-cigarettes and fresh air – choose fresh air. if the choice is between e-cigarettes and smoking – chose e-cigarettes.”


  • Netflix Broken Series – [link]
  • Vaping in England, Public Health England – [link]
  • Louise Ross, NNA – [link]

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker
SVC Labs