I've spent all of my adult life working in the field of marketing. And I spent a good chunk of time during my graduate degree researching business psychology and the means through which to market products. I am no stranger to the concept of "spin." I use it every day. And I can typically pick out every fallacy of argumentative logic presented through the mainstream media. It's sad, but true. The American public distrusts statistics and trusts the nightly news. And we are far too stupid to see the error of our own ways. Let me give you a fine example.
I don't own a gun. I got rid of mine when my daughter got old enough to be curious. But I respect the right to bear arms that we are constitutionally afforded. It was my choice to reduce the risk of an accident in my house. I didn't push my views on anyone else. And now that my daughter is grown and out of the house, I may buy another gun at some point because I always did enjoy plinking with my 22. Here's the thing. It was my choice to reduce this risk in my household. That said, statistics don't really bear out a preponderance of evidence that support a real danger when compared against, say, swimming pools. On a yearly basis, the number of children who die in swimming pools either equals or exceeds the number who are shot and die. For the record, I didn't have a swimming pool either. And in both cases, I took my parenting responsibility seriously. My daughter had survival swimming lessons by the age of 5 and learned gun safety as a young teen (despite the fact that I had neither a pool nor a gun.) This is what we do....we who are responsible parents. Our biggest job is as educator.
Let's look at a second example that hits closer to where I'm heading. I have a coworker who is deathly afraid of flying. She is literally terrified of being in an airplane accident, despite the fact that it is an extremely well-known fact that the ride to the airport in her own car is statistically, exponentially more deadly than the airplane trip she's going to take. Major airplane accidents are so rare, in fact, that they make sensational news stories. The media eats it up. And the American public stays riveted to their seats watching CNN or Fox play the same 10 second clip over and over whilst every idiot academic on their payroll talk about what might have gone wrong. The mass media is in business to do ONE thing, friends. One thing only: MAKE MONEY. And the more exciting their stories are, the more likely people are to watch them or read them. It's. Just. What. They. Do. It's a for-profit industry that makes massive profits by scaring the shit out of their faithful viewers.
And it was only a matter of time before the growth of the e-cigarette industry elicited the media machine's attention. If you are reading this, you've likely watched it play out just like I have. Every vaper in the world is probably well aware of the dude in Great Britain whose dog died from lapping up an entire bottle of e-liquid. And the number of calls to poison control centers over nicotine poisoning are on the rise. THAT is fact. But it's really not a story. First of all, I'm fairly certain after a pretty extensive amount of research on Google that the number of fatalities from e-liquid at this point is statistically nonexistent from a risk analysis standpoint. If there are actual fatalities outside of the 1 that the New York Times cited in its radical piece of tabloidist bullshit (the dude who injected it into his veins after writing his suicide note), I can't find them. Based on the reporting, I don't think there has been a single death. Even the god awful Times story this week couldn't find a solid example to back up its claim and therefore relied on a sales pitch for "potential risk." In other words, fear-mongering.
Other stories today in more progressive news sources have pointed out numerous fallacies in the NYT's article and I'm not going to repeat them all here. But I will reiterate a few points. If we're going to exist above the fray of the lazy masses, we have to look at statistical risk. In 2009, a CDC report released showed that prescription medications killed more people than both car accidents and illegal narcotics. Does this mean that we should make prescription medications illegal? No. It means that just because a product is stamped with the approval of the U.S. FDA doesn't make it "safe."
Folks, "safe" is a bullshit word. There is no such thing. Too much water can kill you if you consume too much too quickly. And certainly will kill you if you choose to breath it while on the bottom of a swimming pool. Every step we take out of our front door each day has risk involved with it. Our forefathers accepted this reality. What the hell has happened in this country that we believe that it is the government's responsibility to legislate all risk out of life?
And worse than that, to define risk that statistically isn't really all that risky. I've got at least 5 bottles of stuff under my sink that could kill me. Draino. Comet (that smells wonderful.) Good grief. Clean your bathroom with a little mixture of bleach and ammonia and you'll get a pretty clear picture of the risks associated with chlorine gas inhalation. These risks don't dictate that the government step in and make bleach, ammonia, Comet, or Draino illegal.
Common sense has to rule at some point. What is the story that isn't being told in the media? How about the hundreds of vapor stores (truly the vast majority) in the U.S. that refuse minors entry into their stores DESPITE THE FACT THAT IT IS PERFECTLY LEGAL FOR THEM TO BE THERE? What about the e-liquid manufacturers like Five Pawns who have voluntarily reduced their profit to move to child-proof lids on their bottles. They did this not because they had legal reason to, but just because they felt it was the right thing to do. Who is covering that story? My bottle of Gemini Vapors' Phillip Rocke e-liquid actually has a warning label on the side of it that says "Keep away from children and pets." No law required them to do this. Bravo guys!
As more and more research points to the incredible potential benefits of vaping when compared to the terrible risks of smoking, we gain greater traction in public opinion. That said, we have to face a couple of profound truths:
1. As the sheer numbers of people increase in our community (exponential growth these days), that also includes the number of dumbasses who do stupid things. It also includes an increased number of irresponsible parents. The risk doesn't increase because our community does, but the probability of one stupid person doing one stupid thing certainly does. And it will only take ONE EXAMPLE and it will make international headlines.
2. We have to remain vigilant to being the very best that we can be. That means that we in this community need to work extremely hard to self-regulate. We need not hand away reasons for the media to point cameras. We don't need to provide examples for legislators to use against us. What does this mean? It means we need to be careful with our products. Don't attempt stupid human tricks with your massively low ohm coil build. Don't leave your e-liquid sitting around. We need to be the best parents we can be. Educate our kids not to touch e-liquid bottles or our mods. We need to keep them out of the reach of those too young to understand the risks. We need to use common sense, and not be careless.
3. Those in our community who own shops need to step up to the plate and remind every single customer to take responsibility with their products. Continue to deny entrance to minors into your stores. Move to child-proof bottles. Voluntarily put warning labels on your e-liquid products. Do these things NOT because it is the law, but because it is the right thing to do. I applaud all who are already doing these things.
4. And most importantly, know that the power of one is HUGE! Your voice matters. It matters in the political arena, but more importantly, it matters in your circle of influence. Talk about responsible vaping. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper and tell them how vaping has changed your life. Write your congressional leaders. Be courteous. Be honest. Please don't be rude. It only provides more ammunition for them to work against us.
5. Talk to your local vape shop and ask them to consider some of these voluntary changes like childproof bottles. This isn't overreacting. We don't need to be jerks about things. It just doesn't hurt to err on the side of being careful. In the end, adding just a tiny increase in cost and inconvenience could easily save us from the one story that gets blown out of proportion and causes folks in Washington to do really, really stupid things.
(Insert sound of me stepping down from my soapbox.) Goodnight.