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On Research Studies: A Word to Vapers

While reading through the comments on a recent Gizmodo article announcing the findings of a soon to be published study on e-cigarettes, I became disturbed by the attitude of some tobacco harm reduction advocates. The article reported that researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo found that in certain conditions electronic cigarettes could produce formaldehyde in concentrations that rival those found in tobacco smoke.

As the study has not yet been published there was no way to evaluate the methods used or whether the data found warranted the conclusions. Since then, a researcher involved with the peer review of the study has shared some information about the study, but that was not available at the time.

Reading through the comments, I was bothered by the amount of electronic cigarette advocates that were insisting that the research was obviously bias, flatly rejecting that the reported findings could be true, criticizing the methodology of the study (even though  it wasn’t available to criticize), and even calling the journalist reporting the story and ‘idot’.

I found my self sympathizing with this comment:

Is there any way to regulate the high level of douchbaggery that most e-cig users seem to display?

Now, of course, there were many respectful, well thought out comments from vapors as well. But the number of embarrassing comments was alarming. This is my response:

A WORD TO VAPERS: Please be respectful of people you disagree with and don’t categorically reject research you haven’t even gotten a chance to look at yet.An honest review of the available science clearly shows that vaping is much safer than smoking. Research like this (if it is found to be reliable once it is scrutinized by the broader scientific community) will allow adjustments to make it safer.I know it can be difficult not to become overly defensive and dogmatic in the face of so much disinformation and astounding opposition to tobacco harm reduction, but be careful not to simply dismiss findings that you don’t like.Think of how infuriating it is when public health groups and tobacco control organizations only accept data that supports their predetermined positions.I have never smoked and am not a vaper, but I am an e cig advocate because I believe they can save millions of lives. However, we are in a battle right now to keep these products available to smokers who have been unable to quit. We are already fighting conformation bias and ideologies so inflexible that there is no room for discovery from our opposition. Let’s not fall victim to the same traps ourselves.

Allison Taylor

Allison is an advocate for electronic cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction (THR).

2 thoughts to “On Research Studies: A Word to Vapers”

  1. I would like to point out that the headline of the article was not “E-cigarettes can produce as much of ONE carcinogen as cigarettes” but rather “E-cigarettes can produce as much carcinogens as cigarettes.” I googled formaldehyde and discovered it is not even considered a proven carcinogen, but rather a suspected one, because the original results of high cancer in a factory handline formaldehyde has never been reproduced, despite have been looked for in many other similar factories.

    So the research is quite likely excellent (we know we needed to look at watts) but the headline was totally bogus. And if the study author promoted that thought as a headline (or even didn’t object to it) then there’s something hinky there as well.

    I do think vapers need to stop saying “water vapor” and stop saying “harmless” to the actual vaper. And vapor should be possible to ban in places where hot food is banned. But I think you are giving the editor, at least, if not the reporter, more slack then he/she deserves.

    1. Sadly, it seems that it is becoming more and more common for the press release preceding the actual release of the study to exaggerate the findings or imply a conclusion not warranted by the data or sample size. However, when the study is not out yet it is inappropriate to assume that is happening.

      And you’re right, that title was very, very misleading. Which is very sad because the percentage of people that will actually read the study vs the people that read that headline is extremely small.

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