category factcheck
score Mostly False 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟧
claim "More banning will achieve a nicotine-free society"
author The Guardian / Bianca Nogrady
tags ['third-party-fact-check', 'popcorn-news', 'ergo-harmful', 'nicotine-addiction', 'gateway-hypothesis', 'vaping-epidemic', 'not-quitting']


Hysteria sustainment will solve black markets

This is a somewhat unsophisticated article, hamstrung by evidently narrow sourcing. It employs the usual argument ad nauseam alerts, but adds an anecdotal component to divert from realistic causes. Author seems quite proud of the gateway drug hypothesis to surrogate for the desired e-cigarette deadliness.

Overall "nicotine-free generation" hints at hubris and disbelief that vaping has contributed to smoking decline amongst teens as well. Those are carefully omitted from the (else-wise valid) concerns about VSNS adolescents. Some care has been taken to allude the intended use case (to quit smoking) as mere marketing ploy. That this very acknowledgement could reduce teen experimentation wasn't newsworthy.

Ben* garners a minor speaking role, not much curiosity

The protagonist of this news article makes an interesting plot device, and [he] introduces some well-known phrases on the topic:

  • despite being illegal to sell in Australia - This could have been the crux of the article, on how illegality doesn't reduce access all that much. Nor how sustaining talking points and black markets might alleviate any of it. Though makes note of non-compliant shops.
  • He knows about “popcorn lung” - Article doesn't mention how the Ben came across thoroughly debunked misinfo, or how it validates other worries in his opinion. Because notably the news author didn't question nor elucidate on this fairly habitual proclamation.
  • But still Ben can’t stop vaping. - Would have been apt canvassing on the habit rather than aiming for the crack nicotine meme.
  • nicotine-free generation has a particular uncanny reminiscence to talking points not commonly seen by 17yo's.
  • If they were just fully banned, laying the groundwork for double prohibition; whatever that is.

Crack nicotine

It's an adage from the 80s and of course used to embellish addiction risks alongside harms. But portraying nicotine as the most addictive substance on the planet is effectively a tobacco trivialization. In this article it's primarily employed to draw an analogy to smoking, and some appeal to spite (lucrative long-term business). It's not clear if based on intentional obliviousness to usage patters (predominant <p20d doesn't indicate much dependency, hence anecdotes).

The very deep into the lungs is kinda interesting, but unsubstantiated. It's not clear what the necessity was, since high-nic vapes already amplify absorption and nicotine/dopamine decay and thus any dependency profile. And would indeed be a warranted concern, since those are primary driver of illicit sales. It's a classic war on drugs outcome; more potent substitutes are an intractable reaction. Obviously also relies on extrapolating PR studies and cohort-level use fluidity as population-level gateway drug for teens.

Only plausible part of the article is nicotine intoxication (stomach pains, headaches). Realistic worries, if clearly from scattered cases.

Teens thrown under the bus

Topically the article is all about the dangers of vaping to youths. Ignoring adolescent smokers of course. But even the ones worth worrying about just serve as pretext to validate the current state of affairs. There's a semantic misunderstanding out of perceiving "bans" as "banishment". And how the current sales to minors wasn't an accident. Which is why the recurring insinuation all vapes were tobacco industry products is a rather basic deflection.

No reasonable person would assume that illicit sales protect anyone. The peculiar demographic in tobacco control however does, or claims to. In Australia, the restraints on adult vape shops and the failed prescription model had predictable outcomes. Apart from a megaliter of nic concentrates now in freezers, imported garbage vapes are now prevalent in the most random variety stores. Without much testing, warning or sales enforcement. Maurice voicing a sudden interest for policing is a little mistimed.

And what it looks like is sacrificing teens just to spite adults and preventing smoking cessation.

Don't mention real diversion strategies

Bubblegum is more prevalent in marketable scare stories than in teen mouths. Cause they're not actually toddlers. It goes without mentioning, but the article makes no mention of nicotine concentrations (despite addiction being the outward main topic), which would be essential to undo the proliferation of illicit sales, or risks thereof.

The author was mildly cognizant that teen use is in parts out of gadget appeal. Which is fairly trivial to avert. But would require a factual statement, which tobacco control won't have (orthogonal to their relentless love for popcorn, evali, and other brain-damaged claims). AU is refusing to acknowledge that e-cigs help with smoking abstinence and quitting. Yet play obtuse that this very information would allow for communicative medicalization / purpose disclosure, and make a much more rational or educative package warning even. (Again, adolescents aren't brain-dead.)

So Bianca, perhaps raise that question next time with Banks.


This is more for the article author.

notes roundup

Just some quotes to avoid going through the whole gish gallop.

article text sc note
It was pink, and it was bubblegum-flavoured … and it was the nicotine-equivalent of nine packets of cigarettes. 🟥 I'm happy Ems finally settled on 9, after alternating between 2 in her report and 13 in other radio shows.
calling a public health crisis of its own 🟪 A propaganda campaign one might even say.
some schools estimate 20%-60% of students are vaping. 🟧 Differentiation woes between presence and preterite is also a wider concern in education.
only 18% had ever smoked a cigarette. 🟨 Oh no, we are ware of past tense after all.
claim e-cigarettes are a harm-reduction solution 🟫 No reputable scientist calls the reduced harm into question. It's just Simon.
many studies also suggest that vaping is a gateway 🟪 Usually misrepresent cohort-observation (actually from predisposition to smoke, where vaping just precedes, not predicts, attempts). Linguistically recycled into vaping would triple smoking rates.
“Where’s the compliance, where are the inspectors of the respective tobacco control teams in the state governments?” he says. “Why aren’t they doing that job?” 🟩 Yes, Maurice, too little too late. It's almost like one shouldn't have sent authorities and public discourse onto goose chases.
requires a total ban on all tobacco advertising and promotion 🟧 Imagine the feasibility if there were legitimate vendors and distributors, instead of what Australia has.
The majority are manufactured in China, 🟩 Devices, yes. The liquids need not be, and would be worth regulating.
There’s enough evidence for organisations such as the American Heart Association 🟥 They're absolute clairvoyants on this topic (heart attacks 10 years prior use?)


So, there are some attempts at painting a picture. And it's not all lies. Overwhelmingly it appears a PR article, for its overlap with depictions by the same folks that created the current situation.

Robotic phrases detected in article