The year 2015 played host to the most intense campaign of misinformation and lobbying against e-cigarettes yet, perhaps due to exploding popularity over the last year.
Public health activists, prohibitionists, and journalists have jumped on the bandwagon of the war against vapers, reporting headline-grabbing excerpts of dubious studies and advocating regulatory clampdowns and massive tax hikes.
The reasons given to justify the assault on e-cigarettes are plentiful but here are the three biggest lies about vaping that received widespread attention.
E-cigarettes are just as dangerous as smoking
Despite being way outside the mainstream of medical opinion, the claim that vaping is as dangerous as smoking has been gaining traction.
The latest assertion, made by Dr. Jessica Wang-Rodriguez was seized on by media outlets worldwide. Wang-Rodriguez was one of the lead researchers on a study published in the journal Oncology that purported to show two e-cigarette products caused cell damage that could lead to cancer.
Wang-Rodriguez claimed in the study’s press release, “I believe they (e-cigarettes) are no better than smoking regular cigarettes.” The study’s interpretation and methodology have, however, been subjected to a barrage of criticisms.
In a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation, leading e-cigarette researcher Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos said:
The main problems are that cell studies cannot be interpreted in the context of human effects because of unrealistic use of e-cigarette devices in the laboratory setting, unrealistic exposure of cells to e-cigarette aerosol and lack of comparison with tobacco cigarette smoking at equivalent doses. The value of such studies is limited only to having a comparative estimate of effect, but cannot represent the true effects on humans.
We have seen repeatedly laboratory studies showing effects that were never confirmed in human studies. A characteristic example is the carcinogenic effects of nicotine, which are observed in the laboratory studies but have been completely debunked through long-term epidemiological studies on humans.
The study’s own press release even conceded that the research team “didn’t seek to mimic the actual dose of vapor that an e-cigarette user would get.”
“In this particular study, it was similar to someone smoking continuously for hours on end, so it’s a higher amount than would normally be delivered,” said Wang-Rodriguez.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, with 25 years of experience in the field of tobacco control was scathing in his criticism of the equation of vaping and smoking.
“Not only is this conclusion baseless, but it is damaging to the public’s health. It undermines decades of public education about the severe hazards of cigarette smoking. To declare that smoking is no more hazardous than using e-cigarettes, a non-tobacco-containing product is a false and irresponsible claim.” (RELATED: Media Bias Exposed: ‘Popcorn Lung’ Chemical 750 Times Greater In Tobacco Vs. E-Cigarettes)
An independent study by Public Health England released in August concluded e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than tobacco and could be “game-changer” for getting people to quit smoking.
E-cigarettes don’t help smokers quit
The effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool are hotly debated. Almost everyone agrees there should be more research into the area, but what the evidence tells us so far is that e-cigs are important for many people who find it difficult to go cold turkey or have struggled using nicotine patches and gum.
A paper by Rutgers School of Public Health and the Schroeder Institute published in November found that ex-smokers are four times more likely to use e-cigarettes than current smokers while those who’ve never tried tobacco are unlikely to ever start vaping.
Rutgers used data from the 2014 National Health Interview survey. The study’s authors found that 13 percent of those who recently quit smoking were likely to use e-cigarettes daily compared to just 3.5 percent of current smokers.
“This is in line with other recent evidence that regular, daily e-cigarette use may help some smokers quit cigarettes,” said Cristine Delnevo, a researcher at the School of Public Health and the study’s lead author.
Similarly, in France, a study published in the International Journal of Public Health found hundreds of thousands of people have quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes.
France’s 2014 Health Barometer, using responses from 15,635 people, aimed to investigate the relationship between tobacco and e-cigarette use.
The number of ex-smokers who were vaping at the time of the report’s publication was 400,000. The study’s authors concluded that “this figure represents an initial estimate of the number of smokers who have successfully stopped smoking, at least temporarily, thanks to e-cigarettes.”
Increasing e-cigarette use will increase smoking
There is, quite simply, no credible evidence for this claim. It is true that the number of people vaping is growing rapidly, particularly among the young.
From 2013 to 2014 e-cigarette the percentage middle and high school students, who reported using an e-cigarette tripled to 13.4 percent. But over the same regular cigarette smoking fell to an all-time low of 9.2 percent – representing a decline 3.5 percent.
In fact, smoking rates across the board a falling substantially. A Gallup poll released on December 10 showed cigarette smoking among young adults dropped 12 percentage points to 22 percent in the past decade. The overall adult US smoking rate is 16.8 percent.
The sharp fall in cigarette smoking was been accompanied by a significant rise in e-cigarette use, especially among young adults who are the most likely to vape out of all age groups.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in November said 5.1 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 4.7 percent of 25- to 44-year-olds were regular vapers. In total, 12.6 percent of Americans have tried an e-cigarette and 3.7 percent are consistent e-cigarette users.
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