Respiratory Study Fail

Posted 13th February 2019 by Dave Cross
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
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker