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Respiratory Study Fail

Another study from the University of Hawaii proves that some researchers value pushing an agenda over conducting proper science

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Wills, Pagano, Williams and Tam are four researchers from Hawaii. At the tail end of last year they released a woefully poor study linking vaping to COPD online. It’s now been published in a journal and acclaimed by Stanton Glantz (damning enough in itself). Michael Siegel has called the paper “ridiculous”.

In “E-cigarette use and respiratory disorder in an adult sample”, the researchers went back to fiddling with the data obtained from The 2016 Hawaii BRFSS, a cross-sectional random-dial telephone survey.

“Multivariable analyses tested associations of e-cigarette use with the respiratory variables controlling for smoking and for demographic, physical, and psychosocial variables,” they write, pretending that this made their work reasonable.

They concluded: “This is the first study to show a significant independent association of e-cigarette use with chronic respiratory disorder. Several aspects of the data are inconsistent with the possibility that e-cigarettes were being used for smoking cessation by persons with existing respiratory disorder.”

Stanton Glantz exclaimed that this work offers “new evidence that e-cigs pose substantial risks of adult asthma and COPD”. Harping back to his diabolical heart study, he continues: “It adds to the case that, in terms of respiratory disease, e-cigarettes are about as bad as cigarettes, but also are different from cigarettes and add to the risk of smoking.”

Michael Siegel responded in fine form: “There is absolutely no way one can conclude, or even speculate, based on the results of this cross-sectional study, that vaping is a cause of chronic obstructive lung disease. Remember, we are talking here about emphysema and chronic bronchitis (that's what is meant by COPD).”

“To see how ridiculous such a conclusion, or even such speculation is, one needs only to look at the sample size of never smokers in the 2016 Hawaii BRFSS who were current e-cigarette users and reported having COPD. It's 13!”

Michael points out that the authors (and Glantz) totally ignore reporting any improvement in COPD as a result of smokers switching to vaping, and “it is biologically implausible that vaping for a few years can cause emphysema or chronic bronchitis.”

He concludes: “The unsupported, sweeping, hysterical conclusions being drawn from these studies are not just scientifically poor, they are causing harm to the public's health as well.”

In a different article, Michael highlights how cross-sectional studies such as this can be used to support the most idiotic claims. Using the same data set, he “proves” the following factors that increase your risk for a heart attack:

  • Having health care insurance (67% increase in heart attack risk)
  • Having a health care provider (174% increase)
  • Going to the doctor annually for a routine physical exam (150% increase in risk)
  • Having ever received the pneumonia vaccine (253% increase in risk)
  • Ever having had a mammogram (52% increase in risk)



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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