News releases on studies should put the evidence they report in context. But how do you judge a release when there isn’t enough… evidence, that is?
In April, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced youth tobacco survey results with this headline and subhead:
E-cigarette use triples among middle and high school students in just one year
Hookah use doubles; no decline seen in overall tobacco use among middle or high school students
“A Promising Candidate for Most Dangerously Dishonest Public Health News Release of the Year” is the sharp critique of the CDC statement from risk communication expert Peter Sandman, Ph.D. His nearly 11,000-word rebuke dissects the CDC release, the news conference performance of CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, and a number of the resulting news articles. His key point: the CDC should have trumpeted the decline in regular cigarette smoking reported by the survey of middle and high school students, instead of just blaring alarms about rising e-cigarette use and equating it with regular smoking, given the sharp disparity in health risks.