Why Some Studies about E-cigarettes Risks Can’t be Trusted

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Man smokes electronic cigarette on dark background.

Some E-cigarettes Studies Are Not Science

On January 22nd, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study about Hidden Formaldehyde in E-cigarette Aerosols. The authors concluded that someone who was a heavy user of a vaporizer at the high voltage was 5 to 15 times more likely to get cancer than a longtime smoker. Except it is not exactly what you can conclude in their experiment and their experiment did not match real-world vaping behaviour anyway.

It is not the first misleading study and certainly not the last one to be published and widely relayed by mass media and social media. Another recent study Exposure to Electronic Cigarettes Impairs Pulmonary Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Viral Defenses in a Mouse Model, concluded exposure to e-cigarette vapor had compromised immune systems. There is a problem though: mice have vastly higher rates of cotinine metabolism than humans.

Why can’t we trust all studies? How are they misleading?

Excessive Dry Puffs and Unrealistic Conditions

The experiment by the New England Journal of Medicine operated the vaping device at a such a high temperature that it produced thermal breakdown products (dry puff conditions). Human users would never use it this way because it creates vapour of too much acrid taste and harshness.
When they claim that the incremental lifetime cancer risk associated with long term vaping “is 5 times as high … or even 15 times as high … as the risk associated with long-term smoking“, they refer to cancer risk that arises from formaldehyde exposure. It cannot mean that long term vaping cancer risks are 5 to 15 times higher. Furthermore, we all know that the smoking cancer risk attributable to formaldehyde is a small fraction of the total. Cigarettes contain many other carcinogens.
In their study, there is only one thing they demonstrated: by overheating a vaping system far more than a human could while vaping, you produce high levels of formaldehyde. Which is dangerous.

Misinformation and exaggerated risks

When risks are exaggerated or worse users are being misinformed about the actual risks of vaping, smokers are confused and discouraged from vaping. Most of them won’t make a complete switch or will simply go back to smoking.

How are risks exaggerated? Let’s take the following example: poisonings of children by e-liquid exposure occurred but does than mean that we shouldn’t allow vaping? Of course not! First of all, there are no documented cases of deaths from exposure to e-cigarette liquids. Second of all, accidental poisoning can be avoided with the introduction of child-proof packaging for e-liquids.

Not safe or not 100% safe?

E-cigarettes aren’t a safe alternative to smoking? But what does it mean “safe”. If it means 100% safe, it is true that it is not.  But if e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes and can save countless lives, then they shouldn’t be condemned.

Vaping doesn’t have to be 100% safe anyway. For medications, no regulatory agency is asking for long-term safety data before being approved for use. If doctors always had to wait on long-term research, the progress of modern medicine would be paralysed. Indeed, potential health consequences can’t be used as a valid argument to oppose e-cigarettes. 

The risks of vaping need be compared to the risks of smoking. For instance, vaping isn’t safe during pregnancy but it’s safer than smoking. So a woman who has never smoked shouldn’t vape but a woman who is willing to switch to e-cigarettes to face fewer risks for the baby shouldn’t be discouraged to do so.

The Smoke Watchers solution and why it is safe

With Smoke Watchers, e-cigarettes are used as a tool to quit smoking. The goal is to reduce health risk for the smoker, not create new ones and be imprudent.

Our connected e-cigarette has the following settings to be safe:
– Maximum duration / 7s
– Resistance will be tracked via the battery. Our app will send to the battery the maximum voltage authorized based on resistance tracking and outputs following new medical research.

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