Saturday, 25 January 2014

A Review of "The Rise of the E-cigarette" - broadcast ITV 23rd Jan

The ITV programme, entitled 'The Rise of the E-Cigarette' did represent a milestone for electronic cigarettes in the UK. It was the first time a documentary about e-cigs was shown on mainstream television, broadcast as part of the Tonight show series.

[ I will update with a link to the show here, when ITV re-upload to their webpage ]

Lets have a look at the issues covered in the show, and the background to it.

As an electronic cigarette user, I was really, and I mean really looking forward to watching it, although I did have concerns about how the subject was going to be presented. Fair and impartial media coverage of electronic cigarettes is a rarity and so I hoped for the best but expected the worst.

The Day of Jan 23rd

Regardless of how impartial, or not, anyone considers the documentary to be in itself - there is no doubt that it was responsible for a day long media onslaught on e-cigs.

Every single ITV news broadcast throughout the day carried a headline.
"World Health Organisation warnings over e-cigarette toxins"

Each news show carried a clip of Glenn Thomas, of the World Health Organisation, declaring that e-cigarette users inhaled dangerous toxins.

Not one single news item asked him for any evidence to justify this claim.

The Rise of the E-Cigarette - the show

On to the show itself, which started with a tagline "what do we know about them and are they really safe?"

The show began with the background information that people smoke and that 100,000 people die from smoking in the UK every year and that sales of electronic cigarettes are increasing at a phenomenal rate - but mentioned that they had found concerns from health organisations about their safety.

After only 2 minutes and 20 seconds they had managed to show the clip of the World Health Organisation warning about "toxins" - not ONCE, but TWICE.

The show started with Chris Choi explaining to the public what an e-cig was and how they worked.
And from the very beginning it went wrong.

Using a 4 year old e-cig model that is no longer on sale, they managed to get the basic components wrong, and with information like this going out on television, it is no wonder the public are misinformed about electronic cigarettes.

Next over to South China to visit an e-cig factory. With the images in the background showing a clean, hygienic, professional, production line - the programme chose not to even mention this and instead focus on the factory managers, clearly responding to leading questions, declaring their concern about poor standards. Of course a factory is going to say that a rival factory makes products of a lower standard, that is just how it is. Faced with the opportunity to mention high standards, visible in the background, the show focused on the low. The only reason that this part was shown was to discuss concern over low quality - there was no balance.

Back in Britain, the show reports that the "concerns" are not holding back a phenomenal take-up

The show cuts to a scene of happy people in a bar, enjoying their e-cigarettes - explaining how much they like them and how much money they are saving.

It is at this point that the tone of the show changes slightly. They take a visit to see Lee Nesbitt who owns 'The Electronic Cigarette Shop' in Newcastle, and describe him as a "Nicotine Salesman" rather than shopkeeper or e-cig supplier.

A quick mention that "regulation has failed to keep up" and that the NHS says that there is "no research" on the long term effects.

And then back to Lee Nesbitt.

It is at this point that Lee is put on the spot, he is made to justify each and every single claim that he makes about e-cigs. Questioned and evidence demanded for anything positive that he says.
This is in complete contrast to they way the WHO are interviewed, where no evidence is apparently needed and each of their claims can be taken at face value.

Professor Robert West

At last a dose of sanity - on comes Professor Robert West, and who should know more about the risks of using an electronic cigarette than the Director of Tobacco Studies at Cancer Research UK ?

He exposes the stupidity of the WHO spokesman, and the BMA spokesman that appears later, and makes them look like fools - with one simple statement - so what if more research is needed? This should not stop smokers switching to them because we know what the ingredients are and that they hundreds of times safer, if not more.

[ reproduced with a copyright defence of "fair dealing" under section 29(1) of Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 ]

VapourTrails TV

And the good news continues as Chris Choi visits the team and VapourTrails TV, where he took part in a VTTV show that was originally broadcast on 27th November - you can see the original VTTV show - HERE.

Chris listens to e-cig users such a Lorien Sea who said that she would never have stopped (smoking) without electronic cigarettes and also looks at 'Generation 3' electronic cigarettes - which Chris incorrectly states have controls which "vary the level of nicotine".

Back to normal

After the brief respite of Prof West and VTTV, the show gets back to normal with a discussion about how companies up and down the country are banning the use of electronic cigarettes on their premises and a trip to a pub that does allow e-cigs to chat with e-cig users.

Electronic cigarettes could kill !

Reporting the positives, such as Prof West and VTTV needed to be outweighed by something worse.

Just when you thought that you had already seen the awful smears against electronic cigarettes before, just when you thought that it could not get any worse ...

It does.

The Tonight Show stoops to the lowest of the low and brings up the story of Terry Miller, a lifelong heavy smoker who switched to electronic cigarettes and then died shortly afterwards.

They interviewed the still grieving widow who thinks electronic cigarettes might be to blame.

Mr Miller died of Lipoid Pneumonia, which his widow described as "oil on the lungs" and the Tonight Show stoops to such a low level that they went below shame.

The implication, with a crying relative, that e-cigs might have been to blame for the death of this man - they must have known what they were doing and left a cover all that nothing was proven, but that the implication is there.

It really does not take much research to find out that this conclusion is very unlikely, in fact nearly impossible.

The Tonight Show could have told the widow (and the viewers) that the official cause of death reported by the coroner was interstitial lung disease. That most cases are caused by smoking - They didn't

The Tonight Show could have said that endogenous lipoid pneumonia, also called cholesterol pneumonitis, is generally observed in persons with chronic bronchial obstruction, as often occurs in smokers. - They didn't

The Tonight Show could have said that there no oils in electronic cigarette liquid, because the atomizers do not work with oils. - They didn't  

It would have been incredibly easy to check the facts, to ask for evidence - They didn't if they had checked medical facts then they would have found information like this:

This was gutter journalism at its worse. Poor research. Well lets be kind and say that it was poor research rather than a deliberate intention to deceive.

With just a short time spent on checking facts they would have realised that there was no reason whatsoever to include this item in the show.

They quite simply didn't check their facts on this.

On with the show

They inform the viewers that many countries have banned e-cigs and crucially that the World Health Organisation says that we should not use them and for the THIRD time, yes the THIRD time, they repeat the same clip from spokesman Glenn Thomas of the WHO talking about how users of e-cigs "inhale toxins" 

- did they ask Glenn for any evidence of this ? NO.

Back now to how e-cigs are also being made by a tobacco company and a discussion about adverts.
For no reason at all, they include an interview with, what must be, a super fussy mum who says that she once heard an e-cig advert on the radio when her children were in the car.

... and on to Dr Ram Moorthy of the British Medical Association who is made to look like a fool when his assertion that e-cigs are being "aggressively marketed" at teenagers - made to look like a fool because the show immediately points out that the Advertising Standards Authority hasn't seen any evidence of this or even received complaints about this.

The Ending

The show ends with the report that the EU is about to introduce regulations for e-cigs to restrict advertising and limit the strength and that users are protesting about this.

In Summary

My view is that the show should not have repeated the WHO statement about users inhaling toxins so many times - that they should have asked the spokesman for evidence about this and grilled him for this evidence in the same way that they treated Lee Nesbit, the shopkeeper.

They did present some plus points, and ended with Professor West, whose view is that so what if more research is needed, smokers should still switch because e-cigs are "100 times safer".

It could have been a good show, but  it wasn't
It could have been an "okay" show, but it wasn't

For me, it will always be a poor show because of the unnecessary, misleading, poorly researched, misinformation about a man that died in a way that was clearly un-related to e-cigs but dressed up in such a way to imply that e-cigs might have been to blame - the worst e-cig reporting I have ever seen, and that is saying something.



  1. Great article and glad I could help quell the "oil in ecigs" by finding Farsalinos statement on Tobacco Analysis's site, and getting it retweeted as quickly as possible.

    Personally I dont feel the show was horrible, but the mistakes made need to be addressed by ITV and corrected, immediately.

  2. I take a lot of your points. But having Dr. West giving his thoughts at the end summed up the debate for us Vapers nicely. More positive on the show than you, any smoker viewing will have a seed planted in his/her head. It could have been a disaster.
    Douglas Hicks@OfJamaicensis

  3. Better than I expected Matt - though I agree with all the points you make. There was no MacAvan or Arnott (pet hates) but the grieving widow thing was way below the belt.
    At least it gave e-cigs a bit of air-time, something we've been lacking on mainstream tv, and it has raised awareness. Would I have wanted better balance? Certainly. Would I have preferred it was not shown at all? No. Maybe next time..........?

  4. Thanks - good summary of electronic cigarette coverage WE DON'T WANT TO SEE ON TV! I think the milestone it represented in Main Stream TV is to expect more of the same. I think Choi is a repulsive arse creeper. On Vapourtrails when Dave Dorn asked "E cigs - good or bad" he was slithery in the extreme uttering nothing that proved he was anything other than an "anti". But then I'm a cynical old lady who can recognise a viper in lizard clothing when she sees one! Thanks for your blog

  5. This programme was propaganda dressed up as fact, in order to generate FUD. This volume of disinformation is unacceptable in mainstream broadcasting. Now, who would benefit from such a thing?

    ITV runs millions of pounds worth of NRT adverts, but of course this cannot be related in any way. Can it?

    1. Nice article Gluggler & a very good point Chris, we all know that the companies behind the e-cig ads we see on tv are in fact tobacco companies branching out to try to recoup some of their lost revenue. And as for ITV's unbiased broadcasting approach... they're as bad as the Daily Mail, maybe Ch4 will do a proper documentary soon!

  6. Well, from what we get on TV and in main stream press in Germany this would be welcome step up towards objective journalism.

    We don't have any real scientists who dare to publicly support vaping. Or if they do exist, they don't get any air time. All we ever hear and read is the repeated diatribe by the "Oracle of Heidelberg" WHO also sprouted that lipoid pneumonia crap in one of their abysmal pamphlets. Which even got the well deserved from Dr. Siegel:
    Oh, and it must be a pure coincidence, WHO they represent officially ...

    The only other sources of desinformation that are used on the topic are officials from the BfR (Federal xxx for risk assessment) and BzgA (Federal xxx for health enlightenment)

    Voices of reason?

    If someone talks sense it's always cut and presented in a way that he looks like a gullible fool besides the caring, motherly concerned and wise Oracle.

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