Reason Roundup

That 'Vaping-Linked Lung Disease' Might Not Really Be Linked to Vaping

Plus: delusions about the First Amendment, hype about the Apple Card, and more...


There's a bit of panic brewing in the press over lung problems that could be linked to vape products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "reports more than 150 cases of possible vaping-linked lung disease," says The Hill. Others make even bolder claims.

"More than 100 vapers have contracted a severe lung disease," The Verge reports. "Vaping lung disease: CDC reports 153 cases," says USA Today. Ars Technica warns that "vaping-linked lung disease cases" have jumped "from 94 to 153 in 5 days."

But read closely, and it becomes apparent that nobody actually knows if vaping is causing this mystery disease or not. Nobody even knows if there is a disease, or how many people actually have it. That's what the CDC is at the beginning of investigating.

For now, all officials know is that states keep reporting people with cases of mysterious lung and chest problems. "Many states have alerted CDC to possible (not confirmed) cases and investigations into these cases are ongoing," says the CDC. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing—all common issues that can stem from a range of causes and ailments.

"The CDC and impacted states haven't identified a cause," notes The Verge. Nor has it actually verified suspected cases.

Those reporting the problems all say they have used vape products—albeit not what sort. Which leaves us with another possibility: that some particular faulty product or line of products is indeed causing trouble, but that this is not an issue with vaping at large.

We know that some patients in potential cases used THC-containing vape products, not nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. The Vapor Technology Association told The Hill that no nicotine e-cigarettes have been linked to the lung issues:

The e-cigarette makers' trade group called for public health officials to "refrain from assigning unsubstantiated blame until the facts are known," and said traditional nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are being wrongly conflated with THC-containing products.

In actuality, we don't know at all what folks with many of the suspected cases were smoking, nor what other habits they may have shared, such as any history of regular cigarette or marijuana smoking. We don't—and this is pretty damn crucial—even know if all of these patients suffer from the same affliction at all.

The fact that cases have spiked dramatically in the brief time since news of this "vaping lung disease" started spreading suggests we may have a different sort of contagion on our hands. Perhaps people who vape have been starting to freak out upon hearing the "lung disease" news and either suddenly noticed new symptoms (which also sound a lot like symptoms of a panic attack) or began interpreting ongoing symptoms in a new way.

Or maybe vaping is going to kill us! That's certainly possible. The point is that right now, anything is possible. And until we know more, it's irresponsible for folks to spread panic about products that have been helping many people leave more dangerous habits behind.


Ken "Popehat" White tries to dispel some of the most common delusions about the First Amendment. "If you've read op-eds about free speech in America, or listened to talking heads on the news, you've almost certainly encountered empty, misleading, or simply false tropes about the First Amendment," writes White at The Atlantic. "Those tired tropes are barriers to serious discussions about free speech. Any useful discussion of what the law should be must be informed by an accurate view of what the law is."

White tackles popular tropes like "you can't shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theater" (wrong!), "hate speech is not free speech" (wrong!), and more. "Many free-speech issues that are controversial politically and culturally, by contrast, are utterly banal legally, and the Court has offered no signs of change," he points out.


"It's a credit card, not a 'virtual interface.' There is nothing novel about a credit card." At Forbes, writer Frances Coppola throws some water on tech-media hype about the new Apple Card and its purported potential to "disrupt" traditional banking:

A credit card is, as its name suggests, simply a line of credit which is drawn upon when using a card to make purchases. Apple's card may be fancy (and fragile), but behind it is a bog standard credit facility, just like every other credit card in the world. So the question is, who is issuing that facility?

Credit card facilities are provided by banks. Cards may be branded by a retailer, but the actual issuer is always a bank….

Apple Card's strapline "Created by Apple, not a bank" implies that the credit line is provided by Apple itself. If that were the case, then Apple Pay would be groundbreaking. It would mark Apple's transformation into a bank—and a bank of such a size and reach would indeed eat the lunch of existing banks.

Sadly, the strapline is misleading to the point of dishonesty….The card that is "created by Apple, not a bank" is actually issued by—a bank."

That's right, Goldman Sachs is behind the "no bank" Apple Card.


  • Radio host, ex-congressman, and former Trump supporter Joe Walsh may run against the president in the Republican primaries.
  • "For Harris, the health care morass is also threatening to become an ominous symbol for why, after her surge following the first debate, she's fallen back since early July to where she started," reports Politico. "She now polls closer to Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke than Sanders and Elizabeth Warren."


  • The Justice Department sent the National Association of Immigration Judges a link to a white nationalist website post that made anti-Semitic attacks on judges
  • DARPA—you know, the group that "defends" our country by archiving and analyzing millions of sex work ads and dreaming up new ways for those in power to surveil citizens—would be the model for a creepy new "Health Advanced Research Projects Agency" that Trump is considering.
  • An embarrassing number of people—including U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry—have fallen for an age-old internet hoax circulating on Instagram this week.
  • The U.S.-China trade war escalates again as China announced new tariffs on American automobiles, oil, and some industrial products.
  • Trump's tariffs and trade wars are accelerating economic slowdown that could plunge us into a recession, writes CNN Business analyst Matt Egan. The chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Lisa Shalett, told him that "it is highly, highly likely that the US economy will continue to slow down" in 2020.
  • More on the Family Tree DNA/FBI link.
  • The European Union is reportedly devoting $100 billion to encourage Euro competitors to companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.
  • If you're not watching Derry Girls, you should be.
  • Why are inmate suicides up?
  • Police in Marshall County, Alabama, are proudly testing new frontiers in the War on Drugs. On Tuesday, they arrested residents for possession of THC extraction from marijuana plants.
  • A must-read from Emily Yoffe for Reason: