Talking rot – attention-seeking headings that fail to meet any standards of reality

For years this blog has taken occasional swipes at some of the inanities that appear constantly in press and media coverage of vaping matters, but the headline on an otherwise fairly well written piece in PoliticsHome this week deserves some kind of award for nonsense – maybe something from the Boris Johnson honours cupboard.

It says: “Disposable vapes that do not meet UK standards should be banned”. Rather missing the point that not meeting standards means, by definition, that they are banned.

How easy those standards are to enforce is another matter entirely. A problem that applies to banning things generally, and in particular right now to UK Trading Standards’ efforts to stem the flow of what’s been called a “tidal wave” of illegal disposable vapes.

And on the subject of dubious headlines, how about this from the Daily Mirror: “Urgent vape warning as deadly ‘flesh-rotting’ drug discovered in e-cigarettes in UK”.

To be fair, it’s not technically wrong. Just, maybe, a teensy bit misleading. It may be a sure-fire attention-grabber, but whatever else it may or may not do, no e-cig that meets UK standards is going to rot your flesh.

Xylazine might. It’s a powerful tranquiliser which has been approved in the US for veterinary use on large animals such as horses and cows. Definitely not for humans.

And it’s at the centre of a scare in the US because it can indeed cause muscle and skin to weaken and develop sores – to “rot”, if you like – when mixed with drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. Which, face it, aren’t going to do you much good on their own, let alone in cocktail combinations.


Blame the deadly teaspoons

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    Now, it seems, xylazine has turned up in a batch of illegal vapes confiscated in Luton, north of London. Not in combination with any other nasties, as far as was reported, but still. Not really something you want to be vaping. Or taking in by any other means.

    The first Brit known to have “fallen victim” (proper newspaper term, that) to xylazine died just over a year ago from what was described in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine as an overdose of xylazine, heroin, fentanyl and cocaine. Any one, two or three of which might have been fatal without the added fourth ingredient.

    And, note, the mixture was administered by traditional “drug paraphernalia”, not by vaping.

    A sad and rather grim story, certainly. One which might reasonably be taken as a warning against taking anything approved only for sedating large, non-human animals.

    As a warning about vaping per se, however, it makes as much sense as a warning against cigarette-rolling paper, or tin-foil, or teaspoons. Or blaming the cup you might drink your poison from.

    Away from the fairly obvious point that almost anything can be used as an instrument of self-harm if a person is so inclined, a more sober and level-headed note is struck lower down the article in a quote from Kate Pike, lead officer at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, who said: “We know that legal compliant vapes pose a fraction of the risk of smoking but we do not know what the risk is from illegal vapes.”

    Those, that is, that do not meet UK standards.

    – Aidan Semmens ECigIntelligence staff

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    Aidan Semmens