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66% of adults incorrectly blame e-cigarettes for vaping deaths


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A growing number of Americans are confused about the culprit behind the vaping-related illness that has killed nearly 60 people and hospitalized at least 2,600.

The leading research points to vitamin E acetate — a substance used to dilute cannabis oil, typically in the black market — as the cause of the sickness. But according to a new Morning Consult poll, 66% of adults believed the deaths were linked to nicotine e-cigarettes such as Juul.

That's an eight-point increase from a similar poll released in September, which found 58%, or 3 in 5 Americans, believed the deaths were linked to e-cigarettes. Later that month, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked the deaths to cannabis vaping products containing vitamin E acetate.

Why do so many people stubbornly believe nicotine e-cigs are the culprit? Part of the problem is that officials initially warned people to avoid all vaping while they tried to figure out what the cause was. Around the same time, officials like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a ban on flavored e-cigarettes like Juul, citing a rise in teen vaping.

"I think to some degree, it's been intentional to conflate nicotine vaping with the THC-cannabis vaping, perhaps with the well-meaning motive about the teen panic about vaping increasing," Dr. David Abrams, professor of social and behavioral sciences at New York University’s School of Global Public Health, told Morning Consult. "I think some people are thinking, 'Let's just demonize all vaping,' regardless of what the science says."

But now, it seems to have had an adverse effect: Fewer people are aware that cannabis products are to blame. The same poll found only 28% of those surveyed believed that cannabis products caused the illness, down from 34% in September.

The mainstream media has routinely conflated nicotine and cannabis vaping, referring to them both as just "vaping." In a recent segment, WDIV interviewed a teenage boy from Grosse Pointe who had to receive a rare double-lung transplant after vaping. WDIV said only that the teen "vaped" — it was only toward the end of the segment that it was mentioned the teen admitted to vaping "THC," a less-common name for cannabis. In an auxiliary web page, "Dangers of vaping: A resource guide for parents," WDIV made no mention of the dangers of THC, and only updated it to include the information after we brought it to their attention.

The panic about all forms of vaping is a shame because e-cigarettes were designed to help people quit smoking.

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