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Ecig Research in Top Junk Science List

Vaping research named in ACSH’s Top 16 Junk Science papers of 2016.

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The American Council for Science and Health (ACSH) believes it is undertaking a mission to counter the ignorance and lies spread by vested interests. As a case in point, it offers up President-elect Trump’s openness to the anti-vaccine argument: “This is why our mission is so important. People in power often have a poor grasp of science. If journalists and advocates don't speak up for good science, cranks and quacks will take over.”

When ACSH looked at the worst pieces of research from 2016, they placed an ecig study in at Number 5. “Many who are opposed to e-cigarettes believe that they will serve as a ‘gateway’ to actual cigarettes. This is a bizarre argument, considering that the once widely believed claim that marijuana is a gateway to hard drugs has been debunked. Similar research holds true for e-cigs, as well; there does not appear to be a trend of vapers adopting cigarettes.”

Chris Russell, Neil McKeganey and Tiffany Hamilton-Barclay co-authored the research paper on behalf of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, Glasgow. McKeganey said: “There is very little indication amongst the young people interviewed that e-cigarettes were resulting in an increased likelihood of young people smoking. In fact the majority of participants we interviewed, including those were vaping, perceived smoking in very negative terms and saw vaping as being entirely different to smoking.”

56% of respondents said that they intended to using vaping as a means to quit smoking and the report pushed the notion that education is that way forward – worrying that “Ambiguity from trusted bodies is a major barrier to uptake and persistence,” among smokers needing clarity about the risks of vaping.

In addition, the research stated: “To-date, however, ‘nicotine naive’ young people who started with e-cigarettes and moved to smoking are so statistically tiny as to be chance.” So far this all sounds like great news for vaping, so why has ACSH chosen this study and not one of the junk formaldehyde ones?

“These are surveys of a specifically chosen demographic,” says ACSH. While it recognises the benefits of qualitative studies like this, the organisation believes the results are only credible when conducted on a large scale – far in excess of the 167 teens the team spoke to. In this case, argue ACSH, the data can’t be generalised to the whole population.

Secondly, “the study was funded by Fontem Ventures, a company that develops non-tobacco alternatives, including e-cigarettes”. But then ACSH acknowledge that the Centre for Drug Misuse Research has also worked for the United Nations, World Health Organisation, and other governmental bodies.

We would argue that the 167 thirty-minute interviews have contributed much to the vaping debate. We would also contend that if no research is to be accepted if it comes from industry money then we can throw out everything backed by pharmaceutical funds as well – and that is obviously a ridiculous proposal. Having covered much of the research in 2016, we would say there are many studies far more deserving of a junk science title and that this one is not.

We would like to hold on to McKeganey’s final comment: “But what was equally clear from our research is that much debated ‘Gateway’ theory is not materializing. There was nothing to suggest that youngsters see vaping as a stepping stone to smoking – quite the opposite.” Rather than being junk, this study debunked notions of normalization and a gateway effect and should be welcomed as such.

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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