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Cost of Vaping Research Rebuffed

American researchers publish a paper claiming that vaping places additional costs on healthcare services, it has been criticised by independent harm reduction experts

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More unreliable research has been pumped out of the University of California San Francisco. Professors Wang, Sung, Lightwood, Yao and Max have published work claiming that vaping places “substantial” costs on healthcare services. Independent harm reduction experts Professors Jamie Brown and Peter Hajek have expressed their bewilderment with the findings.

The team was led by Dr Yingning Wang at San Francisco’s Institute for Health & Aging. Their paper “Healthcare utilisation and expenditures attributable to current e-cigarette use among US adults” was published in the British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control periodical.

Selectively picking the periods for the statistics they cite; they claim teen vaping is increasing whereas it has fallen for the last two years.

Relying on junk and poor-quality science, they add: “there has been a growing literature examining the negative health impacts of e-cigarette use, including health risks for respiratory health, cardiovascular health, oral health and cancer”.

Unsurprisingly, Wang’s team concluded: “Our finding that current e-cigarette use resulted in $15.1 billion in excess healthcare expenditures in 2018 indicates that even with a relatively low prevalence of current e-cigarette use among adults, the economic burden associated with e-cigarette use is substantial.”

Prof Jamie Brown, Professor of Behavioural Science and Health and Director of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group at University College London, said: “These results appear to be based on two key assumptions.

“First, that the identified associations between e-cigarette use and poor health status are caused by e-cigarettes. The majority of people who use e-cigarettes are also former or current cigarette smokers. Despite the attempts at adjustment, it is likely that at least some of the association is actually caused by cigarettes.

“The second assumption appears to be that the alternative is simply that these people would not be using e-cigarettes. However, we know that e-cigarettes help people to quit smoking cigarettes and that cigarette smoking causes enormous healthcare expenditure. Therefore, the key question is what is the net impact on healthcare utilisation, when trying to account for how e-cigarettes affect how many people smoke cigarettes? These types of models have tended to suggest net benefits are likely. For example:

Prof Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), added: “This is a baffling piece of work. The authors report that people who use e-cigarettes have poorer health and incur higher health costs than non-smokers, but it is not clear why they assume that the excess health expenditure incurred by smokers who are trying to limit their smoking by using e-cigarettes (often because of acute health problems) is caused by their recent vaping rather than by their lifetime smoking. This is like claiming that the extra health expenditure incurred by people with broken legs is caused by using crutches.”


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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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