Dog whistles from UCLA

You may have heard the expression, "dog whistle politics". It's when you employ encoded language that can mean one thing to one group of people, but something completely different to another - your real target audience. You can't be accused of deliberately trying to plant a misleading idea into someone's head, but everyone knows that's what you are doing. 

This is exactly what two doctors at UCLA are trying to do in this article I found on Life Science Daily. I am sure it will have been reported elsewhere, too. The headline immediately draws us in: "Doctors raise vaping concerns". I wonder what those concerns are? Let's find out more. 

A pair of UCLA doctors are questioning whether vaping is a healthier substitute for smoking.

“The way a regular cigarette is constructed is very well-known, whereas these vaping products haven’t undergone the rigorous testing of other consumer products,” said Michael Ong, associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and chair of the California Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee.

Immediately, you are being told that vaping is bad for you. It then goes on to provide some background on vaping. 

Vaping involves using a device that heats liquid and nicotine or another substance so the user can inhale the byproduct – with devices such as e-cigarettes, vape pens and even electronic hookahs.

A 2014 survey of 19,000 e-cigarette users revealed 88 per cent believed e-cigarettes were at least safer than regular cigarettes and 11 per cent believed e-cigarettes were harmless.

What the reader doesn't know is if the 88 per cent are right, the 11 per cent are right, or if both of them are wrong. After all, doctors - people who save lives - are concerned.

“When it comes to smoking versus vaping, we need to consider the distinction between what’s safe and what’s safer,’” Holly Middlekauff, professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at UCLA, said. “I would not discourage a tobacco smoker from switching to e-cigarettes, but we need more research on vaping risks and how the two compare. I would definitely discourage a non-smoker from starting to use e-cigarettes.”

In other words, e-cigarettes are safer than smoking combustible tobacco. 

The short article then ends by saying:

Officials maintain that while vaping devices do not contain tobacco, most still have nicotine, a highly addictive substance that has many potential effects on the body.

“We’re first and foremost concerned about nicotine’s effect on brain development in young adults, since the brain is still forming even into ages when we might call people ‘mature,’” Ong said.

By the time we have come to the end, the only thing these good doctors can criticise e-cigarettes for is that most of the e-liquids on sale contain nicotine. We know that nicotine is the most harmless part of a regular combustible cigarette. If has roughly the same effects on your body as caffeine. Nicotine has few health risks. 

I don't know if Life Science Daily is responsible for hyping up this story, or if it's the fault of the two doctors at UCLA. It could be a bit of both, however, when there is grant money to be chased, doctors and scientists will do anything they can to get the bucks on offer. 

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