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Finding Unbiased eCigarette Safety Research Is A Challenge

By Tyler McCanus

Thursday July 9, 2015
Good Ecig research is hard to find!

The topic of ecigarette safety and the constant ‘are ecigs safe question’ is a common one these days, but is ecigarette research giving us the answers? We’ve been taking a look at this hoping to get to the bottom of where the facts are really facts, not fluff. We do this because the electronic cigarette seems to be under attack, and even the nicotine free e cig isn’t spared the smears of biased news reports.

Liquid nicotine or not, fruity ecig flavors or just plan tobacco, some have it out for ecigs and they are putting themselves in the news over and over again. We would like to see what the wider perspective looks like, without the bias.

Ecigarette Safety Research

We often cover the current ecigarette research that paints electronic cigarettes in a negative light. We point to some clear flaws in how those studies presented their data to create ecig myths. It is those flaws that may have led some people to answer “no” to the “are ecigs safe” question, but we know better. Continuing on in the path of finding truth we will look at the data on ecigarette safety that presents it in a more positive light, giving us more to think about with regard to ecigarette safety.

Research in favor of ecigs

electronic cigarette propaganda is liesEven though liquid nicotine and really all parts of the ecig have gotten a bad name in the news recently, there is plenty of ecigarette safety research out there to the contrary.

Yes, there are researchers who think the ecig flavors you use haven’t been shown to do anything to you except help you make the switch away from traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Which is exactly the point of a lot of them – how do ecigs compare to regular tobacco cigarettes.

Since electronic cigarettes serve as an alternative, shouldn’t we be putting them up against those analogue devices that we already know are so bad for us?

If you do that, the research is clear. Such as this quote spotlighted in this article about ecig untruths: “We found that the ecigarette vapors contained some toxic substances. The levels of the toxicants were 9–450 times lower than in cigarette smoke and were, in many cases, comparable with trace amounts found in the reference product.”

That is all from a research paper on toxicants in ecigarettes. The same piece also quotes from a different study; “”For all byproducts measured, electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes. The study indicates no apparent risk to human health from ecigarette emissions based on the compounds analyzed.” Well it certainly looks like the facts about ecigarette safety aren’t all so one-sided now, right?

Certainly what can be agreed on is that the main function of an electronic cigarette is to serve as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes. It is also the place that opponents like to attack; despite the positives liquid nicotine infused ecigs can bring to the table.

For every time they urge us to think of the children, there are plenty of facts that lead to us concluding that we are doing exactly that. That ecigarettes are actually helping cut down teen smoking rates, not holding them back from falling further. The absence of real numbers makes for easy speculation, but if you put things under the microscope it can be easy to figure out where the real harms lie.

The same goes for the assault on ecig flavors and liquid nicotine in general. The mantra that ecigs will now hook a new generation just doesn’t hold any water. Not with scientific proof that liquid nicotine is not as addictive as regular tobacco cigarettes. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking ourselves are ecigs safe so much as we need to ask are they overly addictive. If smokers are able to make the switch to ecigs and some are able to move themselves down to using a nicotine free e cig because liquid nicotine isn’t as addictive, then we know where the real danger lies.

Is vaping bad for you? Learn more here.

To top off all of this is the study conducted among doctors last year that had them confirm their opinions of electronic cigarettes. The numbers once again come out in favor of ecigs, as the majority of doctors polled supported ecigarettes as a tool for their patients.

Some, like Dr. Darl Rantz of Georgia, were firm believers in the product. Dr. Rantz explained “Nothing’s perfect but cigarettes are causing 480,000 deaths a year. Even if it only works in 10% of the population you’ve just saved 10% of the smoking populations life. Outlawing a product because it doesn’t help everybody? Where is the logic in that?” We’ll have to side with the good doctor on that one.

“Nothing’s perfect but cigarettes are causing 480,000 deaths a year. Even if it only works in 10% of the population you’ve just saved 10% of the smoking populations life. Outlawing a product because it doesn’t help everybody? Where is the logic in that?” – Dr. Darl Rantz

Now this is only a small selection of the data that is out there and more is still coming in. As ecigarette safety research becomes that much more important, we’ll see more of it and that could determine the fate of the industry. Of course the big question with that is where is this research headed and what will it tell us. Will it be unbiased or will it be of the clearly biased variety?

We’ve seen plenty of ecigarette safety research come out, but none have really been able to answer the “are ecigs safe” question. There have been studies that focused on ecig flavors, ones that targeted liquid nicotine, and even a few that deal with the nicotine free e cig. Yet in leading the public opinion one way or the other on ecigarette safety, these reports are missing the most important element of all: impartiality.

Why unbiased research is such a challenge

is vaping safer than smokingYou would think that with such an important question as ecigarette safety, and in such a rigidly impartial field that is science, it would be easy to find unbiased ecigarette research. You would be sorely mistaken.

No, it isn’t that the facts about liquid nicotine or ecig flavors are so easy to manipulate, but it is everything around it that is.

We call this how things are framed, and how the data results are framed in many of these studies is simply and obviously biased.

We covered the flaws in the recent research, such as heating up liquid nicotine way beyond what people vape at and then saying the results are cancer-causing agents. The question is who puts together such parameters for a study when they know it doesn’t match the reality of how people actually use these products?

One reason that it is so hard to get that unbiased ecigarette safety research we all crave is that the funding isn’t necessarily behind it. The guys putting up the bucks to test this probably have some motives behind it themselves. As Chris Bullen, an associate professor at the University of Auckland, so aptly put it “ecigs are really the first product I’m aware of that have challenged pharma in this way.”

That is a challenge in the domain of what big pharma is used to – scientific studies and trials. Except there isn’t any long-term data on ecigs because they are so new to the scene. So you get scary statements from people like Thomas Glynn, who serves as the director of science and trends at the American Cancer Society. Glynn says “As for long-term effects, we don’t know what happens when you breathe the vapor into the lungs regularly,” leaving us on the edge of our seats with regard to ecigarette safety. Even his saying “No one knows the answer to that” is spooky.

It’s also true that bad news is much easier to get attention for than good news. This is the case Professor Robert West makes with regard to the studies on liquid nicotine or ecig flavors in general. West is from the University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health and he points out “Bad studies on ecigarettes are easy to do and easy to get into top journals, which are hungry for publicity.”

“Bad studies on ecigarettes are easy to do and easy to get into top journals, which are hungry for publicity.” – Robert West, University College London

This would mean the other end of the scale holds up as well, with West concurring “Good studies are hard to do and are difficult to get into top journals if they do not lead to scare stories.” So if you have yourself some data and it points to something that could really impact the “are ecigs safe” question in a negative way, you will get much more play than if you find some good things to say. This, of course, is a problem.

Ecigarette Safety Research Now And The Future

vapor analysis shows that ecigs create almost no toxinsRight now we’re seeing a real lack of evidence across the board when it comes to electronic cigarette safety.

This was shown to be the case quite clearly when the Cochrane Review came out with their accumulation of data from ecigarette research.

Unfortunately, out of about 600 studies that were analyzed, only 13 published papers met the standards of Cochrane review policies.

Of those ecigarette safety studies, only two were of the most rigorous variety – randomized controlled trials. That is a shockingly low number that needs to change if we are ever going to get to understanding the impact of ecigs, even the nicotine free e cig.

We need more quality research, but we also need research that directly compares ecigarettes to traditional tobacco cigarettes. If you tell me ecigs release 10 bad particles into the air that sounds bad, but if you tell me tobacco cigarettes release 10,000 I would say ecigs are a great alternative.

We need some viable discourse about what ecigarette safety means in comparison to the alternative smokers have. As David Sweanor, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and an ecig fan himself says, “You’ve got people who’ve taken a position and they’re looking at the evidence only in relation to the position they’ve got.”

This whole practice of zero tolerance policy for anything cigarette-related has to stop when you look at how much good ecigarettes can do for the smoking community and how fast they could do it.
This wraps up our overview of the current research and we hope you’ve found it informative. The thing about research is that it always changes and is updated, but rest assured we’ll be covering all of that right here. So make sure to check back often on the ECCR news section or follow us on twitter so you can read all the latest. There is much more ahead and we’re excited to share that journey along with all of you.
Happy Vaping!





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