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In the paper titled Clean, cheap, convenient: promotion of Electronic cigarettes on YouTube in Tobacco Prevention and Cessation, the researchers looked at YouTube videos of adolescents talking about e-cigarettes, and found that the main selling point of the products amongst this age group is the fact that they are safer than regular cigarettes.

Ironically, the researchers are basically saying that the fact that a number of youth stated that e-cigarettes are the safer alternatives, (hence the truth) indicates that there is “confusion”.
“Our findings extend similar conclusions in related work: that the majority of YouTube videos promoting e-cigarettes demonstrate the social benefit and acceptability of e-cigarettes in part by claiming that using e-cigarettes is safer and healthier than consuming traditional tobacco products. This comparison perpetuates a narrative that e-cigarettes are safe because they are “healthier” or “safer” than other traditional tobacco products. Promoting a product by claiming that it is better than a hazardous substance, like traditional tobacco, only has merit when targeting cigarette users who are considering quitting or cutting back. Given that scientific information about safety is largely inconclusive, claims using words like “safer” to describe e-cigarettes could contribute to confusion about the overall safety of these products, especially among youth. A recent analysis found that 34.2% of youth believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, and 45% are not sure. Furthermore, e-cigarette use among youth who did not use traditional cigarettes was more likely when they perceived e-cigarettes to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes.”

“There is a need for “anti” e-cigarette videos on YouTube, especially ones targeted at youth, to more accurately convey current scientific understanding about the safety of these products.” concluded the paper.

Suggesting spreading more misinformation

In his blog, public health expert Dr. Michael Siegel pointed out that this paper is suggesting spreading misinformation. “The paper is clearly calling for public health practitioners to lie to our nation’s youth by telling them that vaping is no safer than smoking or by hiding the fact that vaping is much safer than smoking.”

Siegel goes on to point out that ironically, the researchers are basically saying that the fact that a number of youth stated that e-cigarettes are the safer alternatives, (hence the truth) indicates that there is “confusion”.

“In public health, we do not lie to the public to promote our agenda. That’s what the tobacco companies used to do. And there is no excuse for us to sink to that level.” Dr. Michael Siegel, Public Health Expert

Honesty and transparency are “a core principle of public health” reminds Siegel. Spreading misinformation in order to ward people off something is still lying. “In public health, we do not lie to the public to promote our agenda. That’s what the tobacco companies used to do. And there is no excuse for us to sink to that level.” concluded the public health activist.

More info : The Rest of the Story : Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary