Health & Studies

Ecig Efficacy Attacked

The Conversation is home to staunch anti-ecig campaigners such as Simon Chapman. A team of three researchers from the University of Warwick have used it to discuss their findings where they explain “why e-cigarettes could be holding back your plans to quit smoking.”

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David Ronayne, Chris Doyle and Daniel Sgrol make the argument that their research supports the notion that vaping does nothing more than assist smokers to continue smoking rather than making a sustained quit attempt. At the outset, it should be noted that these three individuals are neither doctors nor public health experts but members of Warwick’s Economics department. They sought to answer one question: “Do e-cigarettes represent a true substitute for cigarette use or are they also perceived as a complementary product?”

Unfortunately, given their lack of expertise in the area, they take published sources into account regardless of bias and pharma-funding. For example, they mention the potential for a gateway effect as presented by a certain Mr. Glantz. “Instead of simply assuming that e-cigarettes are used by all dual-users as a substitute for regular cigarettes,” they write, “it is important to consider that they may be complementary products for some.” But then who assumes that? Anybody who has followed the flow of research knows that not all smokers vape in order to quit.

Their study relies entirely on an online survey of 2,406 American vapers. Herein lies the first major problem with any finding: firstly online surveys are not regarded highly as part of research in this area among harm-reduction experts and secondly the participants were paid for taking part. Rather than basing any conclusion on reliable longitudinal data (such as that produced by Professor Robert West) they rely on this skewed snapshot and some equations. To emphasise how ropey the sample data possibly is, 36 respondents hadn’t even heard of e-cigarettes.

They comment on their findings: “That so many, and especially those who have no intention of quitting, use e-cigarettes primarily as a complementary product raises two concerns. Firstly, e-cigarettes may allow many smokers to continue their addiction to nicotine, and hence also to smoke regular cigarettes, more easily. Secondly, it suggests that public perception will not accurately reflect this if it is focused on the success stories of those who have used e-cigarettes and ceased smoking.”

It leads them to conclude vaping: “may make some smokers worse off if they prolong their habit, the product could undermine regulation that aims to help reduce smoking.” Nonsense, but worse they go on to recommend that the NHS should actually worry about this before deciding to prescribe ecigs to quitters.

The troubling aspect of this junk study is that it undermines the excellent work we’ve previously covered here such as Brown & West’s 2014 work confirming the efficacy of vaping (and the lack of a gateway effect). Then there’s the SBS study last year, one in which they identified the tangible economic benefits to vaping as a result of single and dual use. And did they factor in the increased success rate in conversion to vaping from smoking when using Gen 2/3 products? No, not like Doctor Sarah Hitchman where she said: “Our research demonstrates the importance of distinguishing between different types of e-cigarettes and frequency of use when examining the association between e-cigarettes and quitting.” 69% of vapers believed that vaping can help a person quit smoking according to Health News USA and Doctor Farsalinos, but that isn’t reflected in the Warwick study.

In fact, just last month Christine Lam and Andrew West found that success in quitting through vaping was achieved even though “a majority of the studies reported in the present review included participants that initially had no desire to quit smoking.” So why weren’t these studies factored into the work? Let’s just speculate it was too hard to create an equation from them.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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