E-cigarette studies exposed: Three very false theories

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In our previous blog we discuss the harm that lies in flawed e-cigarette studies. These studies often contain methodological mistakes, or are based on insufficient evidence, and consequently present inaccurate results that lead to exaggerated headlines that people are better off smoking cigarettes.

Before you trade your e-cigarette in for a pack of smokes, make sure that you are aware of the facts behind some of these false studies:

Study #1: Association of Electronic Cigarette Use With Initiation of Combustible Tobacco Product Smoking in Early Adolescence
 

This study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and aimed to find out whether trying e-cigarettes is linked to adolescents smoking cigarettes later on. They used a test group of more than 2 500 14-year-olds and concluded that students who tried vaping were more likely to have smoked cigarettes six to 12 months later, compared with those who had never tried e-cigarettes. This finding lead to sensationalist media headlines claiming that e-cigarette use was a gateway to conventional smoking.

Why it is flawed: The terms ‘regular smoking’ and ‘regular vaping’ were not assessed and the term ‘use’ only meant that they had tried it once. This merely indicates that teenagers who experiment with nicotine in one form are more likely to try it in another form as well. It does not mean that teens become addicted to nicotine and progress to regular smoking because of vaping. Researchers such as Clive Bates analysed the study and further explored its weaknesses.

Study #2: A smoking gun: Cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigarettes

Released by the Center for Environmental Health, this study involved tests of 47 cigalike e-cigarettes and 50 refillable models to find acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. It found that 50 products exceeded California’s Prop 65 limits for these chemicals and reported that the most extreme values they found were 473 times over the limit for formaldehyde and 254 times over the limit for acetaldehyde. These flawed findings resulted in people thinking there are cancer-causing elements present in e-cigarettes.

Why it is flawed: While the report claims the tests were done under “realistic” conditions, it fails to provide information on what tests they actually conducted. Nor does it give precise amounts for how much of these chemicals were found. Cardiologist performing clinical and laboratory research on e-cigarettes, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos was quick to point out the gaping holes in this research.

Study #3: FDA evaluation of e-cigarettes

Adding to the list of flawed e-cigarette studies, the FDA released this study, which analysed the contents of 18 e-cigarettes from two different brands, looking for carcinogens called nitrosamines and other contaminants. The study found low levels of nitrosamines in five of these products and one of them contained 1% diethylene glycol, an ingredient in antifreeze.

Why it is flawed: There have been many similar e-cigarette studies since this study was released in 2009, yet diethylene glycol was never detected again. Seeing as it was only detected in one sample at a very low concentration, it cannot be treated as a common problem relating to e-liquid. It is also an ingredient added to cigarettes. According to American tobacco control expert and public health researcher, Dr Michael Siegel, even if the levels found were present in every e-cigarette, it is still safer than smoking cigarettes. It should also be noted that there have been many developments in e-cigarette products since this study was conducted, and they have more stringent safety measures in place now than seven years ago, yet this study is still cited.


While e-cigarette studies are crucial in helping people make an informed decision when it comes to vaping vs. smoking, it is even more important to ensure that these studies deliver scientifically accurate results. Before making major decisions based on the outcome of a certain study, do research on the study and verify the findings.

Image credit: http://www.popsci.com

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