You may have seen a number of articles over the past few days with titles such as ‘E-cigs cause as much damage to DNA as tobacco’, ‘E-cigarettes could be as harmful as cigarettes’ or ‘Study shows e-cigarette are potentially as harmful as tobacco’.
Unfortunately, scare mongering headlines like these have become common place in relation to e-cigarettes so when smokers are browsing through the latest news and see a continuous theme of anti-vaping articles, the benefits of making the switch to e-cigarettes may be clouded by the thick smog of fake news.
This anti-vaping smokescreen is often based on unreliable research and highly subjective studies so let’s take a look at the latest work done by the University of Connecticut (UConn) and see if there’s any substance behind the sensational headline that ‘e-cigarettes could potentially be as harmful as regular tobacco’.
The chemists at UConn tested smoke produced by filtered cigarettes and unfiltered cigarettes alongside vapour produced by e-cigarettes. They concluded that ‘e-cigarettes have as much potential to cause DNA damage as unfiltered regular cigarettes’ whilst also claiming ‘non-nicotine containing e-cigarettes cause a similar amount of DNA mutations as tobacco cigarettes.’
So, how was this study conducted?
Newly developed thumb-sized 3-D printed devices that cost around 50 pence a build were used in this research. A quick, low cost study conducted with technology that the senior researcher, James Rusling described as “very cheap to make, efficient, and can be used by almost anyone,” doesn’t seem to be a solid basis for an e-cigarette study. Moreover, UConn admitted that ‘the device they used to measure toxicity is new and not as comprehensive as current techniques of measurement.’ according to a spokesman for the United Kingdom Vaping Industry Association,
Head Chemist at Totally Wicked, Dr Pete Gibbons said:
“This is another example of a highly misleading press release in the e-cigarette public health debate. It is based upon questionable single cell studies and a newly developed but untested assay platform which is relatively primitive compared with standard cell assay techniques. To suggest e-cigarettes cause as much damage to DNA in the human body as regular tobacco is grossly irresponsible and contradictory to the body of scientific evidence available.”
While the development of technology to test products relating to public health is a positive sign, it is important to know that these methodologies are in their early stages, so as an initial screening process to determine whether a comprehensive study should be undertaken, they can be beneficial but when the results are plastered over newspapers it can be misleading and damaging to an industry that’s aim is to improve public health.