Whenever I tell anyone I research e-cigarettes, they almost always have an opinion about them. Some will be vapers themselves, and those that are will almost without fail sing the praises of the device that finally helped them quit smoking. But often people who’ve never tried e-cigarettes will focus on the potential risks from utilizing them, and in particular whether they’re likely to reintroduce smoking to a young generation who have been steadily shunning it in larger and larger numbers over recent decades. A particular fear is that young people will test out e-cigarettes and that this will be a gateway in to smoking, in addition to fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A recent detailed study well over 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds finds that young people who test out e-cigarettes are often those that already smoke cigarettes, as well as then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. In addition to that, but smoking rates among young adults throughout the uk are still declining. Studies conducted currently investigating the gateway hypothesis that vaping leads to smoking have tended to look at whether having ever tried an electronic cigarette predicts later smoking. But young adults who test out e-cigarettes will probably be distinct from those who don’t in plenty of alternative methods – maybe they’re just more keen to take risks, which may also increase the likelihood that they’d experiment with cigarettes too, no matter whether they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although there are a small minority of young adults that do begin to use e-cigarettes without previously becoming a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence that the then increases the risk of them becoming Electronic Cigarette Review. Enhance this reports from Public Health England who have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you might think that could be the final from the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided the general public health community, with researchers who may have the most popular purpose of reducing the levels of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides of the debate. This really is concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the same findings are employed by each side to back up and criticise e-cigarettes. And all sorts of this disagreement is playing outside in the media, meaning an unclear picture of the things we understand (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes will be portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and people who have not even tried to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no point in switching, as e-cigarettes could be just like harmful as smoking.
An unexpected results of this could be it causes it to be harder to do the particular research needed to elucidate longer-term results of e-cigarettes. Which is something we’re experiencing as we attempt to recruit for our current study. We have been conducting a research project funded by CRUK, where we’re collecting saliva samples from smokers, vapers and non-smokers. We’re taking a look at DNA methylation, a biological marker that influences gene expression. It’s been proven that smokers use a distinct methylation profile, in comparison to non-smokers, and it’s probable that these alterations in methylation may be connected to the increased chance of harm from smoking – as an example cancer risk. Even if the methylation changes don’t cause the increased risk, they might be a marker of it. We want to compare the patterns observed in smokers and non-smokers with those of e-cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight in to the long term impact of vaping, without having to wait for time and energy to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly than the start of chronic illnesses.
Portion of the difficulty with this is the fact that we know that smokers and ex-smokers possess a distinct methylation pattern, so we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, which suggests we must recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only rarely) smoked. And also this is proving challenging for just two reasons. Firstly, as borne out by the recent research, it’s rare for individuals who’ve never smoked cigarettes to consider up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily result in an electronic cigarette habit.
But additionally, an unexpected problem continues to be the unwillingness of some in the vaping community to help us recruit. And they’re put off because of fears that whatever we find, the results will be utilized to paint a poor picture of vaping, and vapers, by individuals with an agenda to push. I don’t wish to downplay the extreme helpfulness of lots of kbajyo inside the vaping community in helping us to recruit – thanks, you understand who you really are. But I was disheartened to hear that for many, the misinformation and scaremongering around vaping has reached the point where they’re opting out of the research entirely. And after talking to people directly about this, it’s hard to criticize their reasoning. We have also learned that several e-cigarette retailers were immune to putting up posters aiming to recruit people who’d never smoked, since they didn’t want to be seen to be promoting e-cigarette use within people who’d never smoked, which can be again completely understandable and must be applauded.
So what can we do concerning this? Hopefully as increasing numbers of scientific studies are conducted, and we get clearer information on e-cigarettes ability to work as a smoking cessation tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. For the time being, I hope that vapers continue to agree to participate in research therefore we can fully explore the potential of these products, particularly those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they might be crucial to helping us understand the impact of vaping, in comparison with smoking.