The latest media frenzy over electronic cigarettes comes in the wake of a study investigating the effects of aerosol vapor that critics call “wildly misleading.”
Critics of alternative smoking technologies are seizing on a study from New York University School of Medicine published Jan. 29, claiming the devices may lead to cancer. The researcher conclude that it is, “possible that e-cigarette smoke may contribute to lung and bladder cancer.” Michael Walsh of Cancer Research U.K. says the study, “doesn’t show this,” noting the researchers focused on the impact e-cigarette vapor has on the DNA of mice and human cells and never compared it to the effects to smoking.
The researchers did not specifically investigate whether the aerosol vapor released by e-cigarettes causes cancer. The study simply showed that vapor from e-cigarettes, “raised levels of DNA damage in the lungs, bladders and hearts of mice.” While damaged DNA increases cancer risks, Walsh argues their study establishes no basis to directly link vaping with cancer.
“They didn’t look at how it affected people. And they didn’t directly compare it to smoking,” Walsh said in an article for Cancer Research U.K. Tuesday. “The study didn’t look at humans, and so didn’t show any effect on the health of humans. Different e-cigs devices deliver different amounts of vapor, and people use them in different ways. So the levels of e-cig vapor and nicotine used in the study might not match the levels that people are exposed to through normal use.”
Public health experts focused on harm reduction argue efforts to spread misinformation on alternative smoking options that minimize their benefits simply deny smokers less harmful options while tacitly encouraging them to keep using a more dangerous product.
An article from a group of scientists appearing in the Annual Review of Public Health, which is set to be released in April, argues that the mounting scientific evidence on e-cigarettes favors the argument that vaping drastically reduces the health risks from combustible tobacco. They say the public health community must work to correct misinformation that the devices carry similar harms to cigarettes, which is currently dominating mainstream media coverage of vaping.
The group includes scientists from New York University (NYU), the Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies, the Truth Initiative, the University of Nevada and the University of Vermont.
Despite the onslaught of misinformation in the media on the supposed threats posed by vapor products, millions of former smokers globally are transitioning to the harm reduction tools and quitting combustible cigarettes.
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