Misleading, sensational headlines about e-cigarettes cost lives

Posted by DrMendelsohn on 13 September, 2017

Hardly a week goes by without a sensational headline about the dangers of e-cigarettes. These headlines are often misleading and exaggerated and muddy the waters about e-cigarette safety. No wonder people are confused about vaping.

The latest study this week was reported with headlines like these

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 Health warning.jpg

After reading these and other scary headlines, a smoker thinking of switching to an e-cigarette may well decide to keep smoking. Vapers may even return to smoking.

What did the study show?

The small study, which has not yet been published nor subjected to peer-review, was presented recently at the European Respiratory Society International Congress. The researchers tested e-cigarettes in 15 healthy volunteers and found a temporary rise in pulse rate, blood pressure and 'stiffness' of the aorta (the main artery leaving the heart) when an e-cigarette with nicotine was used.

The researchers claimed that this was the first time this effect had been demonstrated and the public should be made aware of these important findings showing the dangers of e-cigarettes. The media then had a field day with juicy headlines guaranteed to deliver lots of clicks and newspaper sales.

What the stories did not say

  • This study simply shows the well known effects of nicotine on the cardiovascular system which also occurs with nicotine replacement products (such as nicotine patch and gum) and smoking
  • The same changes in pulse rate, blood pressure and aortic stiffness occur after a cup of coffee, exercising or stress
  • There is no evidence that these temporary changes would lead to cardiovascular disease and this study does not demonstrate that
  • According to the leading researcher in nicotine and cardiovascular disease, Neal Benowitz, 'Electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine without combustion of tobacco and appear to pose low-cardiovascular risk, at least with short-term use, in healthy users'.
  • A previous study in 2016 found exactly the same effect, so this is not a new discovery. This study and its claims were also widely criticised.

Most importantly, Dr Lundback does not appreciate that e-cigarettes are used almost exclusively by smokers and ex-smokers. Overall, vaping is overwhelmingly safer than smoking, probably at least 95% less harmful, according to the UK Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England. Smokers who switch to vaping will have substantial improvements in health. Dr Lundback seems intent on discouraging this.

To raise a small, temporary risk in isolation and claim serious unproven long term effects, without any reference to the far greater risks from smoking, is highly misleading and irresponsible. This sort of behaviour by scientists and journalists is harmful to public health and will cost the lives of smokers.


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