Huffington Post Doesn’t Get E-Cigs, Yet

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Huffington Post launched HuffPost Live in August with a barrage of ongoing video content that seemed both promising and quite flawed at the same time.  For a full 12 hours a day, live content would be offered to viewers without charge or obvious information farming.  Initial reactions were mixed, but largely similar.  Basically, it seemed like a good idea that could only progress and improve with time.

Three months later that project is still going on and it landed on electronic cigarettes.  The topic was meant to focus on the appearance of e-cigs on TV despite bans against cigarette advertising on television since 1971.  The topic went off the rails fairly quickly due to an ill-prepared host and a poorly selected panel.  Most of the conversation ended up focusing on the most rudimentary aspects of the technology, missed the mark even on that, and degenerated into a poorly organized for or against argument.

You can watch the discussion here.

Pages could be spent poking holes in almost every part of the discussion, but there is a much more important issue at hand.  Instead, we will cover a couple of the most egregious pieces and move on to a topic we haven’t covered more than once before.

First, There is a great deal of fair, unbiased research about electronic cigarettes already available despite what is said.  According to a report in 2009, our knowledge of the chemical constituents of electronic cigarettes even then had already surpassed that of tobacco smoke.  Research into the health impact of e-cigs suggests that — for the average smoker — use of e-cigs for the rest of your life is likely less harmful than 2 months of smoking.  Finally, marketing research has shown that e-cigs predominantly appeal to current and ex-smokers (not non-smokers) over the age of 30 (not minors) who would like to cut back on or quit smoking (not add to the amount they smoke).

HuffPost Live is the far shallower younger brother of Huffington Post — seemingly incapable of taking the time necessary to do a job really well.  It starts out with the stellar topics fished out by the smart, discerning older brother and butchers them with poorly selected interviewees and really weak hosts.  The love affair HuffPost Live has with webcam panel discussions is admirable, but a bit destructive when hosts can’t keep focus on the topic at hand and panel members are selected by availability rather than relevancy.

The reputation of electronic cigarettes is suffering not because there’s much bad to say about them (unless someone chooses to bend the truth), but because those against them are far more organized and far better equipped for battle.  Those against may be using half-truths, lies of omission, and outright deception to win, but that doesn’t change the fact that in most media arenas, they are winning.  The HuffPost Live piece is a good example of this.

Out of the 4 panel members, 2 are old professory-looking sorts very clearly against electronic cigarettes, one is a CEO of an e-cig company who’s word will be questioned from the start by any mild skeptic, and, lastly, a smoker that hasn’t tried e-cigs and frankly had no business being involved in the conversation (and I suspect from his demeanor that he knew it).  So right away, the panel isn’t what one might call balanced.

More to the point, Blu founder and president Jason Healy was the only person in the discussion equipped to speak on electronic cigarette advertising on TV.  His company produced one of the commercials in question (see it here).  Ideally, FCC and marketing folks would have been tapped to discuss what it meant to have something resembling smoking advertised on TV.  Instead, the chosen panel — with the help of a host that knew almost nothing about e-cigs and so asked the most rudimentary of questions — degenerated into a for or against argument.  This is not an argument one young CEO can win against two embittered over-the-hill science geeks.

There are pro-e-cig individuals out there that can win in these circumstances, but they can’t be everywhere–and the anti-e-cig folks seem conspicuously unavailable when the opportunity to debate them arises.  So the e-cig world needs two things.  First, every person who might be or is tapped to discuss e-cigs should prepare with a few solid facts in case things do degenerate into a for or against argument (here’s a good place to start).  Second, when the media decides to cover electronic cigarettes, they will need to start doing some serious fact checking.

The e-cig community doesn’t have a lot of control over what the media decides to run.  However, the more it comments on, questions, and shares pieces (good or bad), the more the media will begin to realize there is much more to this market.  Even the Huffington Post — a generally fair and insightful community of writers — hasn’t really gotten electronic cigarettes.  Their last serious article about e-cigs came more than a year ago and was written by the author of Smoke-Free in 30 Days: The Pain-Free, Permanent Way to Quit. There’s little surprise it was slanted against e-cigs, but maybe that means they’re past due for an in-depth look at the technology that could tumble the preventable giant.

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  1. John says

    More exposure is usually a good thing, it will lead to more knowledge out in the open. Most of the information dealing with e-cigs on an un-biased level is positive. At least in comparison to smoking… and that’s what it is always compared to.

  2. Steve Chase says

    With the exception of the praise you gave the Huffington Post I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Well done.
    The ‘smoking’ journalist was the only person in the whole piece that made any sense at all. The man from Blue wasn’t an ideal spokesman and the other two are shills for big pharma.
    With the state of journalism today it is going to take a major proactive move by the ecig community simply to let them know where to get unbiased information…like Dr. Michael Siegell for starters.

  3. hallucinoJEN says

    I couldn’t even finish watching the video. They “experts” focused more on smoking rather than e-cigs, and never acknowledged studies done by doctors and presented to the WHO.

    The media no longer have “journalistic integrity.” It is up to us to use e-cigs in public if we want the public to know that e-cigs give off pleasurable smells and is less harmful than cigarettes. First hand knowledge/experience is more powerful than what some “expert” says on TV.

  4. cigarbabe says

    Michael Seigal never seems to take a stand on ecigs unless it’s in his blog. He wouldn’t even come into the group of us who participated in his own study to say “thank you” or “sod off” even!
    What is he a recluse? He is one of the people besides Elaine Keller who should be asked to be on these kinds of discussions but SURPRISE!
    They are never invited. Simply because the ANTZ extremists who are against everything except the pharma NRT products don’t want you to know there are better and more pleasurable ways to quit.
    Yes you can enjoy quitting smoking! It doesn’t have to be painful or boring to the person involved. It can be a very nice diversion and safer than smoking and certainly safer than Chantix!

  5. MorrinB says

    Same straw man arguments that are always thrown around. Seriously, these ‘experts’ need to talk to some of us that have actually quit. I’d say we are the proof he says doesn’t exist.

  6. hificat101 says

    I think it might be helpful if some of us watched the video, then contacted the Huffington Post and let them know their “diacussion” was hopelessly ill informed, and we don’t appreciate it. I plan on doing just that.

  7. Nathaniel says

    They should have had the reporter try an e-cig on air or before the show.

  8. slap_maxwell says

    cigarbabe hits one of the nails on the head here…. Nannies and their supporters do not seem to like the fact that people (and the free market) can come up with alternatives to government-sanctioned/approved/funded alternatives to smoking. It chaps their hide to no end. How dare any of us decide on our own or amongst our own peer groups what we should or shouldn’t use and/or enjoy, when Big Daddy has just the answer to what ails us (in their minds, anyway)?

    And so we’ve got to go beyond just keepin’ on keepin’ on, because if we don’t, our adversaries (and that’s just what they are, regardless of their *stated* intentions) are gonna end up once again shoving inferior stuff our way because it suits *them*.

  9. Karla Lyle (Msv8PR) says

    This was a completely biased piece,. They should have had at least one active vaper. Seems like even the blu cigs guy didn’t know what he is talking about or what to say when he was hit with a hard question. They really needed to do a little research before doing this piece. This is irresponsible reporting in my opinion. We should all write them and maybe talk them into redoing the piece with some more accurate info.

  10. NicXvapor says

    While publicity is always good for at least raising awareness, it would be nice if the media would at least make an effort to research the topics they’re reporting on. As far as a panel, I don’t see the point in having one if it’s not a balanced panel of relevant guests. I know, crazy talk.

  11. saboinia says

    i usually like hp but this is soooooo not cool

  12. Mike says

    Not cool at all

  13. Mike says

    And yeah,….they shoulda handed him a Provari with some awesome juice in it.

  14. Donald Hammond says

    Sounds like none of them really were knowledgeable on the subject. It is a shame .

  15. slap_maxwell says

    HuffPo will claim they are not a “news” service but instead an “opinion” service…still, if you base your opinions on non-facts and heresay, your opinions are essentially worthless….

  16. Johnathan Brown (Sepsis) says

    Really disappointed with this. I’ve read quite a few things by huffington post and enjoyed it. This is just humiliating.

  17. hificat101 says

    “Nannies and their supporters do not seem to like the fact that people (and the free market) can come up with alternatives to government-sanctioned/approved/funded alternatives to smoking”

    Do you mean Democrats? Because I consider myself to be a Democrat, and am a HUGE supporter of keeping things as they are. If you do mean D’s, it’s not really cool to call fellow community members names. This ain’t the Vapers forum.

  18. mongrel says

    Definitely not fair and balanced journalism, but that’s the norm these days. They should have had a CASAA rep on this. I suspect Blu to some extent can’t really talk too much about Tobacco Harm reduction without possibly bringing some legel troubles on themselves.

  19. robovape says

    the Huffingtone Post is great for a liberal spin on the news in general, but not a very good source for accurate reliable info, HPLive is even less so, i only expect so much from them, and lately i think they’re tied with Rush Limbaugh on credible and convincing commentary…

  20. Mandi says


  21. robovape says

    i can definately see why allowing ecig commercials on tv irks a lot of people… the tobacco companies dream of doing it, the people that are glad they can’t don’t want this either… there’s a lot of people with an interest in the opposition of ecigs…

  22. Dahcwon says

    As E-Cigs get more exposure not only will the Huffington Post come around but so will the rest of the media.

  23. James says

    Jason Healy totally dropped the ball. Could have nailed these doctors on several points. And then he admits he still smokes which says a lot about his product!

    there are many other representatives of the eCig industry who would have done better. If he’s the face of the eCig industry now – we’re in a lot of trouble.

    he came off as clueless…

  24. unclerj says

    Why don’t they pick the path of least resitance, do some honest researc, find a smoker on the staff, get him or her a decent E-Cig kit and some good juice and let them try it for a month.

    Then do the whole thing with some actual facts and results?


  25. Donald Hammond says

    That is just sad.

  26. Donald Hammond says

    Sounds like a lot of people who have no idea what they aare talking about.

  27. Lincoln Pennell says

    Dr.Stanton Glantz has no idea what he is talking about , He is another quack that sees what looks like smoke and says Ban it , He is also a Dr that gets tons of Dollars from big Pharma ….. Dr.David Abrams is the same he proved it when he said him and other doctors would love to see people on the Gum for the rest of there life …… I wonder were he gets his funding from …..

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