In 2019, an outbreak of vaping-associated lung injury (also known as “EVALI”) spread throughout the U.S., linked to use of illicit THC cartridges.

This paper examines U.S. newspaper coverage on the causes and solutions to EVALI. Methods: A content analysis of 417 articles from April to December 2019 from two national newspapers, one regional newspaper, and the Associated Press was conducted. Articles were coded for information about EVALI causes, mentions of the brand Dank Vapes, calls for individuals take a specific action to prevent harm, and mentions of policy actions to address vaping. Mentions of increasing youth vaping and JUUL were also coded. Results: Most articles (77%) provided an update on the number of EVALI cases and/or deaths. Fewer described EVALI symptoms (20%) or mentioned vaping cessation resources available to the public (2%). Almost half of articles also mentioned youth vaping as a concern (49%). Dank Vapes was mentioned rarely (4%) compared to JUUL (39%).

After CDC recommendations changed to no longer recommend avoiding all vaping products, news articles became significantly less likely to mention nicotine products as a cause of EVALI or suggest that individuals cease all vaping. While policy was generally not articulated as a solution to EVALI, banning or limiting flavored nicotine vaping products were the most common policy actions mentioned. Conclusions/Importance: The discussions of causes of and solutions to EVALI were often intertwined with coverage of youth vaping, potentially failing to convey a clear sense of how the public should respond to the EVALI outbreak.

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Olivia Algiersa Joseph et Al. – Substance Use & Misuse – Feb 24, 2021.

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