Ecig2Smoking Study Slammed

Posted 11th January 2018 by Dave Cross
Academics at The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences make a bold claim in their latest research looking for a progression link from vaping to smoking tobacco. The paper has been slammed for its misleading and erroneous conclusion.

Primack, Shensa, Sidani, Hoffman, Soneji, Sargent, Hoffman, and Fine write: “Young adults who use electronic cigarettes are more than four times as likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes within 18 months as their peers who do not vape.” It’s a headline quote that screams ‘we found exactly what we were looking for’.

The team claim that the study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, is the first study to follow a non-smoking cohort of 18 to 30 year-olds for over a year. Lead author Brian Primack explained the rational for the study: “Early evidence on the potential value of e-cigarettes for cessation or reduction of cigarette smoking has been mixed.”

Then he repeated the paper’s claim: “Our study finds that in non-smokers, e-cigarettes make people more likely to start smoking. This supports policy and educational interventions designed to decrease the use of e-cigarettes among non-smokers.”

The university’s press release states (without any obvious indication it is being ironic): “More research will be needed to determine why e-cigarettes increase the risk of someone transitioning to tobacco cigarettes, but Primack noted that several factors are likely at play, including that using e-cigarettes mimics the behaviour of smoking traditional cigarettes, the sweet vape is a gentle introduction to smoking harsher tobacco and the build-up of nicotine addiction could lead e-cigarette users to seek out more nicotine-packed tobacco cigarettes.”

Primack added: “Young adulthood is an important time when people establish whether they use tobacco or not. Our findings suggest that clinicians who treat e-cigarette users should counsel them both about their potential for harm and about the high risk of transitioning to tobacco cigarettes among initial non-smokers.”


The team concluded: “Our study identified a longitudinal association between base-line e-cigarette use and progression to traditional cigarette smoking among adolescents and young adults. Especially considering the rapid increase in e-cigarette use among youth, these findings support regulations to limit sales and decrease the appeal of e-cigarettes to adolescents and young adults.”

Unfortunately for the team, even a simple drill-down on the paper reveals they found absolutely no concrete link of vaping leading to smoking. The investigation became an exercise in statistical manipulation and Smokefree Pennsylvania’s Bill Godshall slammed the findings. Godshall called it a “witch hunt” and an attempt to “demonize vaping”. He stated the researchers absolutely failed to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship linking electronic cigarettes to a progression on to smoking tobacco. “The fact that e-cigs use preceded smoking doesn’t prove such relationship,” Godshall emphasised. The anti-smoking campaigner added that smoking rates have been declining rapidly since 2010 – which marries to the wide scale adoption of vaping.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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