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The Only Way Is Ethics

A research paper finds that vaping is less harmful to the lungs than cigarette smoking – but the study holds a major flaw

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A team of researchers at Scanomed Ltd have produced a study that has good news for vapers, but its methodology raising ethical questions. It found that vaping is less harmful to the lungs than cigarette smoking, but got vapers to return to tobacco to do it.

“First comparative results about the direct effect of traditional cigarette and e-cigarette smoking on lung alveolocapillary membrane using dynamic ventilation scintigraphy” was published on The full paper is locked behind a paywall.

The team state that their nuclear medicine procedure is useful for “monitoring the damage of alveolocapillary membrane.” Given that the company is selling its services rather than working at the cutting edge of tobacco harm reduction, it is distinctly possible that it felt that investigating the booming field of vape research offered a good vehicle for publicity.

“The e-cigarette is a new popular smoking device producing vapour from the nicotine solution. Many studies have shown that e-cigarettes appear to be safer than smoking, but there are still debates to what extent e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking,” they wrote.

They looked at “volunteers smoking an e-cigarette”, unfortunately not understanding the correct terminology. But, problematically, they then compared the results with those obtained “after they returned to traditional cigarette smoking for a week.”

“We included 24 healthy volunteers into this study who regularly used e-cigarette containing at least 10 mg nicotine/ml,” it isn’t clear if these were vapers or dual-fuellers, nor how health was measured.

“We performed baseline DIS study in volunteers with e-cigarette smoking and then we asked them to return to traditional cigarette smoking for a week. Conventional respiration tests were also measured. We statistically analysed the effect of traditional cigarette on clinical parameters and pulmonary clearance of the radiopharmacon.”

They found: “There was no significant change in the parameters of peak expiratory flow rate and Tiffeneau-Pinelli index respiration tests; forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in 1 s slightly decreased (P<0.05), whereas the exhaled CO and COHb levels were significantly higher at traditional cigarette use (P<0.0001), and increased in every case. The pulmonary clearance was significantly faster at traditional cigarette smoking compared with e-cigarette use (P<0.0001).”

The team concluded: “On the basis of our results, we suppose that e-cigarette smoking is less harmful to the lung function than a traditional cigarette, and it can be recommended to heavy smokers who are unable to stop smoking.”

While such a finding would normally be a cause for celebration for those with an interest in tobacco harm reduction, our view is summed up by Charles Gardner, the Director of Health Science and Technology for the Foundation for a Smoke-free World.

Charles commented: “No person on Earth would think that was ethical.”

Vaping is a proven route away from tobacco for hundreds of thousands of ex-smokers in the U.K. Getting ex-smokers



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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