Big Tobacco not only wrote the playbook on how to deceive the public about the dangers of cigarette smoking, its representatives are adding new pages daily now on how to make electronic or e-cigarettes and so-called vaping seem safe, even when evidence mounts that this isn’t fully true.
It’s good to see that the Verge, an online information site that clearly has a younger audience, has put out a deep dig on the duplicitous campaign by vaping firms to make their “smokeless” products not only seem harmless but cool. They’re doing so, in part, by assailing public health experts who disagree with them, and who find that vaping can be a gateway for the young to cancer-causing cigarette smoking and use of other harmful tobacco products. Big Vape, as Big Tobacco did before, also is bankrolling purported experts and supposed research to make its case that e-cigarettes offer a more healthful alternative to help cigarette smokers lessen their nasty habit.
As the Verge has reported:
Publicly funded published studies from researchers with no ties to tobacco or vaping interests, by contrast, have shown that chemicals in e-cigarette vapor suppress genes involved in immune defense in human nasal epithelial cells, include known respiratory irritants and carcinogens, impair the function of epithelial cells that protect the lungs, and contain ultrafine particles and nicotine that could harm vapers and bystanders. Why such different conclusions? No one has yet systematically compared the results of vaping studies funded by vested interests to those funded by independent sources, but studies across diverse subjects show that industry-funded research tends to favor the study’s sponsor.
The Verge story describes the risks that vaping carries for users due to the continued presence of not just highly addictive and demonstrably damaging nicotine but also other toxins in “smokeless” products.
As for vaping interests’ claims that smokeless products can be a beneficial option for cigarette smokers, there’s some worthwhile reading not only in the Verge report but also over at the nonpartisan, evidence-based folks at the RAND Corporation. There, a top-notch public policy expert has written about his own experiences counseling his son and one of his coach’s about vaping:
What did the science tell me? What did data from the best kinds of studies, randomized clinical trials, show? Randomized trials assign smokers, by chance, to different treatment groups to compare whether those assigned to use electronic cigarettes stop smoking at higher (or the same or lower) rates than those assigned to some other treatment. The results of randomized trials are the basis of all clinical treatment recommendations across a range of problems, diseases, and disorders. Did science support the use of vaping as a tool to quit smoking? The evidence doesn’t support using electronic cigarettes to quit smoking and doing so could even lead to reduced chances of quitting. The answer discouraged the coach: The evidence doesn’t support using electronic cigarettes to quit smoking and doing so could even lead to reduced chances of quitting. I knew of ongoing randomized trials and that this conclusion was subject to change, but I could not, in good conscience, recommend electronic cigarettes as a way for him to quit smoking.
In my practice, I see not only the big harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services but also the significant damage that smoking can inflict on them. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Cigarettes, cigars, and hookahs are just plain bad for your health, and there’s decades of scientific evidence now to prove that smoking causes cancer and contributes to huge heart, lung and blood vessel woes. And for now, look with great skepticism about vaping—the more that special interests tout it, the more we ought to worry about it, especially for the young. It’s important that we keep in mind that, while some of the vaping enterprises are Big Tobacco competitors, many also have thrown in their lot with the older industry and their public credibility is deeply compromised as a result. Habits, once acquired, are hard to kick. That’s more reason to avoid sketchy ones. If you need help getting off cigarettes, talk with your doctor. There are alternatives with demonstrated results.