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Leicester Lies

Leicester is Ground Zero for the movement to encourage the NHS to adopt vaping as a quit tool, but the Leicester Mercury appears to be intent on trying to reverse that

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Leicester is Ground Zero for the movement to encourage the NHS to adopt vaping as a quit tool, but the Leicester Mercury appears to be intent on trying to reverse that. In a move typical of the declining standards at the newspaper, it published a misleading and controversial clickbait article just to promote online arguments last week.

Under the headline “E-cigs found to cause cellular and molecular changes that could lead to disease over time”, the article is credited to journalists Mark Waghorn and David Flett.

You are probably thinking “I know that name”.

David Flett is the reporter who has given us many powerful pieces of vital journalism such as “Britain's oldest iron still working flat out 80 years later” and “Kia car stolen from Leicestershire is found in Peterborough”.

Yes, that David Flett.

New research has reported that vaping damages the lungs, just like smoking conventional cigarettes,” Waghorn and Flett scribed.

Just like his namesake ex-Leicester City’s Martyn Wagorn, Mark Waghorn also missed the goal with aplomb.

Smokers are often told battery-powered e-cigs are effective in helping them to quit the habit. But experiments on mice found prolonged inhalation aerosols affected the pulmonary immune system, altering gene and protein levels,” they continued.

It is almost like neither of the reporters bothered to check the evidence before copy-pasting the press release and seeking comment from accredited independent British public health experts.

In fact, no one is quoted in the article except for the corresponding author, an Associate Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Experimental Medicine at McGill University, Montreal.

The second sentence in the team’s research abstract talks about e-cigarettes being used to vape cannabis and hark on about teen use – a clear indication of the bias that they brought into the study from the outset. By sentence number four they are suggesting (without prior reliable independent evidence) that vaping has a similar impact on cells that smoking does.

Then they talk about “vaping product use-associated lung injury”, ignoring that even the USA’s CDC finally had to concede that vaping had nothing to do with it.

All this as a precursor to their mouse study, a research approach that has been repeatedly damned for not being representative of real world ecig use.

Ultimately, as irresponsible as the study was for ignoring its own flaws, the actions of the Leicester Mercury are far worse because it has ignored the National Union of Journalist’s Code of Conduct. It states that journalists should strive “to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair” – something this article clearly and completely failed to manage. It appears to have had one aim: to incite social media commentators and to drive clicks through to the website in order to raise up advertising revenue, not “produce content that is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair”.

At the very least, the authors should speak to someone working in UK public health about the piece, write an apology, and withdraw the article from the website.

Vaping is not safe, vaping is “at least 95% safer than smoking” according to the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England), Cancer Research UK, and the Royal College of Physicians. Smokers deserve that local and national media tell them the truth when it comes to matters as serious as reducing smoking related cancer rates.


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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