Exploding e-cigarettes are merely a statistical distraction

I know the title of this article is probably not going to score me popularity points with certain groups of people. After all, if you’ve been reading online newspapers and checking out news commentary on cable TV, it seems that America has a brand new boogie man. 

That’s right. It seems that a lot of people can’t stop talking about how dangerous electronic cigarettes are. It seems that every decade, mainstream media has to find some sort of product enemy. Maybe it’s a particular defective car, maybe it’s a defective hoverboard or some sort of trendy product that has gone horribly wrong.

It’s very easy to see why the media does this. It’s all too predictable. If you’re unsure as to why they’re so motivated to demonize a particular product category, it shouldn’t really be that hard to figure out. It’s all about money.

That’s right! It’s all about the Benjamins. You have to understand that the media is all about hype and whenever a topic gets hyped up, there are more news releases made. There’s a lot more attention paid to that trend and this translates to more eyeballs. 

More eyeballs, of course, translates to higher ad revenues. Again, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or some sort of brain surgeon to figure this out. You don’t have to have an advanced degree in any of those fields. 

This is why when you look at the numbers, the cases of exploding electronic cigarettes are so pitifully low that you’re left scratching your head. The only question that you can ask yourself that would make sense is “Why is this even a thing?” 

Well, statistically, they’re a distraction. Please understand that according to the latest industry figures, the electronic cigarette industry is worth 1 billion dollars. And it’s slated to grow much faster soon enough.

That’s how big and how hot the market is. And I can see mainstream editors working themselves into a frenzy, trying to come up with some sort of angle on how to capitalize on this strength. Instead of doing the right thing and exploring the real health issues regarding electronic cigarettes, they focus on the quick, the cheap and the easy.

In other words, they’re lazy. They’d rather zero in on the one in a million case of somebody misusing their electronic cigarette to the point that the battery overheats and the whole device blow up. It’s easy to see why this is the case because when you focus on the one in a million case, it’s very spectacular and exaggerated and people can’t help but want to look.

I don’t know about you, but the last time I’ve passed a train wreck, I can’t help but look. There’s just something inherent to the human condition that makes us want to look at these grotesque over-exaggerated disasters.

But if you’re just going to look at the raw numbers, exploding e-cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and other similar devices are a statistical blip on the radar. No joke! You’re more likely to die in a car accident. You’re more likely to die from other products than malfunctioning or badly used electronic cigarettes.

So give me a break about this explosion of e-cig explosion stories. This is a non-story. But unfortunately, in the age of fake news and viral social media news, the old ideas behind journalism still apply. 

One of the oldest ideas in journalism, of course, is if it bleeds, it leads. It’s all about eyeballs and, ultimately, it’s all about the money.

If the media were honest

If the media were really honest, they would not waste so much digital ink on exploding e-cigarettes. Those are so few and so far between, they’re not even worth talking about. Now, I don’t want to sound like I don’t care about the people who obviously got injured when these things do happen. But let’s focus on what’s more statistically likely.

I am, of course, talking about issues regarding e-juice. That’s the real hot button issue. Well, it should be. Unfortunately, too many people are happily stepping into one rabbit hole after another and they refuse to look at the real issue.

It really is too bad because there are actual legislators and bureaucratic functionaries who are hell bent on regulating the electronic cigarette industry into oblivion or into becoming a shadow of its former self. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is real.

The industry actually has its enemies. Unfortunately, when the conversation turns on non-issues like exploding e-cigarette’s malfunctioning battery, we are distracted from the real discussion we should be having. 

If you’re still unclear of what the real discussion should be, let me clue you in. It’s all about the e-juice. There are lots of scientific research going on regarding the specific health benefits of vaporizing or using electronic cigarettes. 

A lot of this has to do with the additives used in e-juice. When you look at these studies however, they assume that all e-liquid and e-juice manufacturers are operating from the same script. What they don’t understand is just like food, e-juice can have many different formulations.

If you’re baking a chocolate chip cookie, you can make so many substitutions. You don’t even have to make chocolate chip cookies with actual chocolate chips. You can use carob. You can use all sorts of chocolate substitutes and fillers. As far as sugar is concerned, there are many alternatives out there. There are even flour alternatives.

Well, if that works for cookies and baking in general, why wouldn’t it work in e-liquids and e-juice. Ultimately, it all boils down to the customer’s taste profile. If the customer is looking for a specific taste and is looking for a nice, all natural buzz, there are many ways to deliver those things.

You don’t have to use nicotine. You don’t have to use glycol or some other biochemical boogie man that the media keeps blowing up. That is the real issue.

Unfortunately, the more we talk about exploding e-cigarettes and other statistically insignificant events, the higher the chance that bureaucrats and regulators in the European Union and, soon enough, the United States, will crack down on electronic cigarettes. 

This would be an unprecedented disaster. No joke. I’m not exaggerating here. Why? If you’re trying to quit smoking, one of the most effective ways to do so is to pick up an electronic cigarette. You’re not burning stuff. You’re not pumping all sorts of cancer-causing tar into the sensitive inner linings of your lungs. You’re not doing any of that.

Instead, you are using water vapor in aerosol form and, get this, you can use e-liquid that does away with nicotine. While scientific studies have shown that nicotine can cause cancer, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the e-juice you use has to have that ingredient. 

You can choose a nicotine-free product. This is where the discussion should be. Unfortunately, a lot of regulators think that there’s really only one way to bake the “e-cig cookie”.

They think that nicotine has to always be in the picture. They think that nicotine and all its health baggage has to necessarily be part of the picture. What if I told you that the market can evolve away from that? 

What if I told you that there are other more natural and healthier alternatives to nicotine? What if I told you that consumers, in general, have a wide range of preferences and the ones who insist on nicotine all day, every day are actually a minority in the market?

If you put all these factors together, then instead of seeing a very dangerous future for the electronic cigarette industry, one can’t help but think of a golden future. I know that sounds a little bit too optimistic. But if you are able to look past the smoke and mirrors and focus on the actual consumer, this industry actually has a lot going for it.

So keep this in mind and try not to get too distracted by all the scary stories regarding exploding electronic cigarettes as well as the scary compounds that are supposedly being put in e-juice. 

An anti-China bias

I don’t want to overplay the anti-Asian card here. After all, it may seem that this is a bit manipulative or we’re being overly sensitive. But often times, you have to call things for what they are. A lot of this hysteria regarding electronic juice as well as electronic cigarettes, in general, can really be tied to a general uneasiness in certain quarters about things made in China. 

At some level or other, I really can’t blame them. I mean, after all, prior to these stories breaking, we have heard of toothpaste made in China being recalled because apparently, they were putting all sorts of nasty chemicals in those toothpaste products.

Similarly, canned or packaged milk coming from China were recalled because they contained plastic additives and other nasty stuff. But when it comes to any kind of product recall, it’s always a good idea to look at the total picture. When you look at the total amount of food imports from China and how big the industry is, it’s easy to see that the contaminated products or badly made products or even intentionally bad products are a drop in the bucket.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is that our concern should be in context. Let’s face it. Bad manufacturers are everywhere. They’re not a uniquely Chinese phenomenon. 

In the United States, how many manufacturers have been caught adulterating their products? Well, the list is actually quite long. As robust as the US FDA may be in doing its job, some still manage to slip through. 

Keep in mind that this is domestically made materials. I’m not talking about stuff made in China or imported from Mexico. This is domestic stuff. So if we’re intellectually honest and we want to really look at the big electronic cigarette picture, then exploding cigarettes, e-cigarettes, electronic cigarette malfunctions, faulty electronic cigarette batteries and other hysteria are side shows. That’s the bottom line.

So focus on e-juice and e-liquid because this is where the real innovation and real industry evolution will come from. When handled properly and with the proper coordination between consumers, manufacturers, distributors and government regulators, the industry might end up in a much better place and consumers might have a lot more choice and end up much healthier as well.