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Telegraph Misrepresents COVID Vaping Threat

The Daily Telegraph has published another hatchet job on vaping where it totally misrepresents the findings of a study and links vaping to increased COVID-19 danger

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Phoebe Southworth took time off from her busy career covering fare-dodging Big Brother stars and celebrities visiting Primary schools in Swindon to pen an article for The Daily Telegraph that cherry picks information to give the totally wrong impression of what the authors said. In fact, she completely ignores the section where they state completely the opposite.

Some journalists go to great pains to point out that headlines are created by sub-editors to drive readers to the webpage or newspaper article. Southworth can’t rely on this defence as the factual inaccuracies continue throughout the text. So grave are the errors that it could lead one to wonder if there was ever a showcase concert by a piano teacher either1?

Vapers who have Covid-19 are up to 17 per cent more likely to transmit the virus, spreading it in clouds of smoke”, she claims2.

Roberto Sussman, Eliana Golberstein, and Riccardo Polosa are world-renown experts when it comes to studying vaping. The trio not once referred to vapour as “smoke” in their study3.

Southworth continues: “Bystanders exposed to low intensity expirations from an infectious vaper in indoor spaces, such as houses and restaurants, are one per cent more likely to catch coronavirus, researchers from Italy, Mexico and New Zealand found. However, if the person is using their e-cigarette intensely and breathing out a lot of smoke, this risk increases to between five and 17 per cent, they conclude.”

The curious take on the research might make some wonder if her article was more the product of a press office working on behalf of a rich man with a global agenda than her own endeavour to inform and educate.

What did Sussman, Golberstein, and Polosa actually write?

They examined “the plausibility, scope and risks of aerial transmission of pathogens (including the SARS-CoV-2 virus) through respiratory droplets carried by exhaled e–cigarette aerosol.”

While her quote from the abstract is partially accurate, it omits to mention that vape is simply visible breath – something the authors clearly mention – and that vaping does not increase the chances of contracting COVID-19 from someone any more than if they were in a room with someone speaking, singing, coughing or sneezing.

In their conclusion, the trio clearly state: “We have shown in section 9 that vaping will add only a minuscule additional risk to those risks already existing from continuous breathing or talking in indoor or socially shared spaces without universal wearing of face masks, which offer fairly effective protection against pathogen contamination by infected persons, but also provide reasonably good protection for bystanders exposed to emissions from people infected who are not wearing a face mask.

The risk for direct and indirect COVID-19 contagion from indoor vaping expirations does exist and must be taken into consideration. However, this risk must be placed in its proper context with respect to the parameters of exposure that characterize vaping and other expiratory activities. Therefore, as far as protection against SARS-CoV-2 virus is concerned, vaping in a home scenario or in social spaces does not require special extra interventions besides those already recommended for the general population: social distance and wearing face masks.

“Vapers should be advised to be alert to the worries and fears of non-vapers when sharing indoor spaces or dwellings or when close to other citizens, and for safety measures to use low-powered devices for low intensity vaping. Vapers, however, deserve the same sensitivity, courtesy and tolerance as well.”

The Daily Telegraph has a history of attacking vaping, usually citing Professor Martin McKee. It lied when it said the “95% Safer” study was “industry-funded4, and its science editor Sarah Knapton was happy to ignore evidence when she regurgitated “Another crappy study … based on Crappy Science5.


  1. Phoebe Southworth on the Swindon Advertiser -
  2. Vapers with Covid-19 up to 20 per cent more likely to transmit it than infected non-smoker, study finds, The Daily Telegraph -
  3. Aerial transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus (and pathogens in general) through environmental e-cigarette aerosol, by Sussman, Golberstein, and Polosa -
  4. E-cigarette ‘safety’ study was written by industry funded scientists -
  5. “Crappy” Heart Science -
  6. Vaping linked to greater risk of heart attacks -

Photo Credit:

  • Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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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