In the wake of an outbreak of measles in Europe and America, elected officials have sought to stop the spread of anti-vaccination fearmongering responsible for the recent measles outbreaks. News outlets, advocates, medical societies, and social media platforms – where the myth that vaccines are both ineffective and dangerous incubate and go viral – are rolling out campaigns to counter myths about the benefits and particularly the dangers of immunization.
The campaign to combat vaccine disinformation is important. Vaccines are effective because they block or prevent underlying causes of infectious diseases. Each year 95 percent of most vaccine-preventable diseases including cancer-causing infections are stopped each year. In the US alone that’s about 20 million illnesses; 40,000 deaths costing about $70 billion annually. That is why the World Health Organization cited the reluctance to vaccinate one of the ten leading sources of disease and why public health experts regard the spread of scientific misinformation on social media as a global public-health threat.
However, for all the harm anti-vaccination fabrications have had on public health, a more recent campaign of medical disinformation about the dangers of e-cigarettes is likely to be more damaging by far.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes “nearly half a million Americans die prematurely of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. (That’s about one of every 5 deaths.) Another 16 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion each year in health care spending and lost productivity.”
E-cigarettes, while not a cure for nicotine dependence, can help reduce the death and disease caused by combustible tobacco. Public Health England (PHE), the United States equivalent of the CDC, concluded best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes, and when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether. The most recent studies show that e-cigarettes are more effective in reducing smoking than any other device or approach., and yet almost two thirds of Americansbelieve vaping is deadlier than cigarette smoking. This is no accident. Just as the anti-vaccine zealots have turned vaccine hesitancy into one of the World Health Organization’s top global health challenges, anti-vaping groups such as the Truth Initiative and Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids have spread warnings about the hidden dangers of e-cigarettes to reduce consumption and spread uncertainty.