Health & Studies

Vaping and Vision

Another study from the University of California purports to find a negative result, but even a staunch opponent of vaping downplays the finding

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A new study has been released by researchers working at the University of California. Published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, the paper conflates vaping with smoking, focusses on spreadsheets not people, and draws the conclusion that electronic cigarettes can cause problems for vision.

The aim of the data trawl was to find a link between vaping and visual impairment, and this is what the team surprisingly found having drawn data from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention's 2016-2018 Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System – an annual telephone survey. The data set encompassed 1,173,646 individuals.

Describing the methodology, the authors write: “We reviewed e-cigarette use (current, former, or never), as assessed by the questions: ‘Have you ever used an e-cigarette or other electronic vaping product, even just one time, in your entire life?’ and ‘Do you now use e-cigarettes or other electronic vaping products every day, some days, or not at all?’

“The primary outcome measure was visual impairment, defined as a binary outcome ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question, ‘Are you blind or do you have serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses’?”

It’s too early to be selecting the worst study of 2022, but this one has to be in the running.

The authors say: “The adjusted odds ratio of visual impairment in current e-cigarette users compared with never e-cigarette users was 1.34 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.20-1.48), and in former e-cigarette users was 1.14 (95% CI 1.06-1.22).”

Their results claims that ex-vapers eyesight is worse than ex-smokers.

Golla, Chen, Tseng, Lee, Pan, Yu, and Coleman concluded: “Current compared with never e-cigarette usage was associated with a higher odds of visual impairment in the BRFSS 2016-2018 population, independent of traditional cigarette use.”

This type of research is known as a cross-sectional study. They are conducted because they are very quick and cheap to conduct but are imbued with problems. In their overview, Wang and Chen point out that such studies are susceptible to bias, provides information not reflective of the population as a whole, and do not provide information on whether the exposure or outcome came first.

A measure on how poor the study is, and how unreliable the results and conclusion are, comes from who is criticising the work. Professor Simon Capewell is a go-to quote source for newspapers when they want a negative “balancing” comment about vaping.

In this instance, Professor Capewell told The Times unequivocally that this study “does not prove a causal link between vaping and harm to vision.”

Just two weeks into 2022 and researchers have tried to claim that vaping:

  • Destroys vision
  • Stops the penis from working
  • Makes vapers infertile
  • Causes problems for bones

This could be a long year.


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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