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Exploding E-Cigs and Other Headlines Designed to Scare You

Reports surfaced last week in England of a gruesome encounter one user suffered at the hand of their vape device. The Daily Mail reported on an incident where user David Aspinall's e-cigarette overheated and exploded, reportedly “showering his limbs with metal.”

Another report, just this week, outlines another encounter with young Alfie Worthington, a toddler who was nearly injured by another exploding device. Another report comes out of Utah, where another youth received severe burns at the hand of an exploding device.

And you think that’s bad? All of these reports have come after another man in England, David Thompson passed away as a result of an e-cigarette explosion in August. Are you scared yet? Well, that’s what many of these stories seem designed to do, scare you, and vilify the e-cigarette.

Upon closer examination of each of these stories, and a variety of other reports that have surfaced intermittently in the news media, one can easily see the device is not the ticking time bomb these looming headlines allude to. Each fire is attributed to an improper charging cord being used. When a third party charger is used there is a rare chance that an improper voltage being sent to the device can cause an overheating effect, or produce an electrical spark. This is actually a danger with many chargeable devices, not just vapes.

Mr. Thompson who, unfortunately, lost his life, also did not solely have the e-cigarette to blame. Investigators in his case believe the fire started when an e-cigarette that was charging exploded and set fire to an oxygen concentrator that was used by the victim. However, the reports you always find seem to paint a darker story of the impending danger. The danger, upon closer review, can obviously be averted by using the devices as directed.

Explosions, however, are not the only cause of concern when it comes to the reported danger of e-cigarettes. Another issue, as reported by many news outlets, involves the potential poison hazard of the e-liquid used in e-cigarette devices. In April, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report documenting an increase in the number of calls to US poison centers in relation to exposure to e-cigarettes. The number of e-cigarette calls increased from one call in September 2010 to 215 calls in February 2014. The majority of those affected are children, who mistakenly ingest the liquid.

The headlines, again, seem scary but even the CDC knows that this is a simple matter of protection and education. Kevin Chatham-Stephens, MD, is a pediatrician serving as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer for the CDC, who recently wrote a report on e-cigarettes and poisonous exposure to children. He writes: “To help prevent pediatric exposures, we suggest that healthcare providers counsel parents to treat electronic nicotine delivery devices and e-liquid like other potential poisons found in the home, such as pesticides, bleach, or medications, and keep them properly stored out of reach of children.” Prevention, according to Dr. Chatham-Stephens, along with regulation, can solve this problem in its entirety.

The problem with exploding e-cigarettes and toxic e-liquids is not the danger they write about, it is the danger of reporting these stories with such a negative bias just to produce an attention-grabbing headline. Creating a culture of danger around e-cigarettes does nothing to help them gain a hold in the health care world. As harm reducers and smoking cessation devices, e-cigarettes stand the chance to make a real significant change in our society and our world’s public health.

Society, in general, can benefit from a shift in use from traditional, combustible smokes to e-cigarettes as they are clearly healthier and produce a little trace of any effect in the “second-hand smoke” capacity. So why are reporters and news agencies continuing to report on e-cigarettes like they are smoking’s no good step-child?

Media has been sensationalizing news from the moment you could sell a newspaper, and that timing indicates the primary reason for their exaggerations. Big headlines sell papers, or in this day and age, big headlines get clicks, and if that comes with a little embellishments or burying of the truth, news media seems more than happy to do so. The problem is vilifying e-cigarettes just to sell papers, genuinely has the potential to put millions of lives at risks, by deterring would-be quitters from using the devices as a cessation method, an action that could endanger many people’s lives.

What’s just as bad in the long term is that once an item is vilified, as the e-cigarette is experiencing through these “explosive” stories, it is a lot harder to clear its reputation, than it would be if it was given a chance to prove itself first. If e-cigarettes are guilty before proven innocent, then the growth of the product is in jeopardy. If they are able to prove their effectiveness, e-cigarettes, as many studies are beginning to prove, can truly save lives and create a healthier society… but only if they are given the chance.

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