Posted on August 6, 2022 By Colin
A RECENT OPINION PIECE in The Examiner newspaper by two Tasmanian vaping opponents Dr Sukhwinder Sohal and Dr Kathryn Barnsley has sunk to a new level of misinformation and scaremongering. The Examiner has not responded to my request to correct the errors in the article, so they are published here.
Sohal and Barnsley greatly exaggerate the risks of vaping nicotine. All credible experts agree that vaping is a far safer alternative to smokers who are unable to quit and any risk must be compared to the harm from continuing to smoke.
The assertion that “e-cigarettes will likely cause head, neck and oral cancers, cardiovascular disease and strokes” is totally without evidence
The risk of cancer from vaping has been estimated to be less than 0.5% of the risk from smoking. There is no convincing evidence that vaping causes cardiovascular disease or stroke. In fact, studies have shown that when smokers switch to vaping their cardiovascular health and blood pressure improve.
The authors stoke anxiety by saying “there are many things we don’t know about the health effects of e-cigarettes”. While we don't know everything, we do know a lot after 15 years of research and experience.
Leading health bodies agree that vaping is far safer than smoking because of the dramatic reduction in the number and dose of toxins compared to smoke. The UK Royal College of Physicians has concluded that long-term vaping is likely to be no more than 5% of the risk of smoking.
The authors also claim that “e-cigarettes are likely to exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms”. This is based on speculation from a laboratory test in smokers. However, in the real world, studies have not found any association between the use of e-cigarettes and the risk of COVID-19. Furthermore, hundreds of studies have now found that current smokers are at reduced risk of COVID-19 infection.
Sohal and Barnsley falsely claim that “the evidence on successful quitting using e-cigarettes is very thin”. In fact,
there is now good evidence from clinical trials and real-world experience that vaping is at least 50-100% more effective than nicotine replacement therapy (patches and gum)
A recent analysis of 171 trials of all smoking cessation by the UK National Institute for Health Research found that vaping was the single most effective of all smoking cessation medications.
Evidence from randomised controlled trials is supported by observational studies, population studies and the rapid decline in smoking rates where vaping rates are high.
The authors claim that “numerous researchers agree that the development of electronic cigarette-related illnesses will outweigh any short-term benefits”. This claim is clearly wrong.
Multiple modelling studies have calculated the risks and benefits of vaping and concluded that the overall benefits are considerably greater than the harms and are likely to improve public health
One study estimated that under current patterns of vaping in the United States, nicotine vaping will translate into 1.8 million premature smoking and vaping-attributable deaths avoided and 38.9 million life-years gained between 2013 and 2060.
Sohal and Barnsley state the obvious, that “lungs are designed for air”. Of course this is true and it is best not to smoke or vape. However, smokers are exposed to a poisonous mix of 7,000 toxins and carcinogens in high doses. Around 200 different chemicals have been found in vapour, mostly in trace or very low doses.
Any risk for smokers should be compared to the far more harmful alternative, continuing to smoke
The authors claim that “it is almost certainly the [tobacco] industry which is fuelling the black market”. This is patently false. The black market for vaping products is entirely comprised of cheap, unregulated Chinese imports, typically iGet, HQD and Gunpod. No vapes made by Big Tobacco are sold on the black market in Australia.
The black market has flourished because of the flawed prescription-only model for nicotine vaping. Getting a nicotine prescription and importing supplies from overseas is complex and simply too hard for many adult smokers. The black market has filled the gap and also happily sells illegal vaping products to children.
Smokers need to know the facts about vaping to make an informed choice about trying it. Vaping is far safer than smoking and is probably the most effective quitting aid available. Misinformation which discourages smokers from switching to vaping supports the cigarette trade and will result in more deaths and illness.
Chris Snowdon has written a withering review of the Sohal and Barnsley article here
Delusional anti-vaping ignoramuses