We must be thankful that amongst a raft of shameful vaping scaremongering, we have experienced and knowledgeable medical experts such as John Britton providing evidence-based responses to unwarranted attacks on an industry that is already saving millions of lives.
Before we get to the latest scare story, we will start by sharing an extract from John Britton’s response. Professor John Britton is the Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS) and has long advocated the clear benefits of vaping over smoking. He said:
So I’m afraid I think it is these authors who have it wrong. They are so opposed to nicotine dependency in any form that they are risking the lives of smokers who would benefit by switching completely to e-cigarettes. There is nothing in this new paper that should change advice to smokers. If you smoke, switch. If you don’t smoke, don’t vape. And just as you wouldn’t buy unlicensed alcoholic drinks, don’t vape cannabis or other bootleg products.
We are all too familiar with unreliable conclusions being drawn from studies. From heart implications to youth uptake, the anti-vaping mob are relentless with their sensationalism. In almost all cases, the headlines do not tell the full story. In fact, in the vast majority they tell a completely different story to what has actually happened.
Although most of the vapers reading this will probably already know that the article in question will relate to a misleading headline with little science behind it, we will let you know what the brains behind it came up with anyway… This way the next person who sees you vaping and says “those things are worse than smoking, you know?” you will be even better equipped to set the story straight.
“Lung scarring caused by cobalt”, despite no cobalt particles being found in lung samples
The latest story relates to a person who was using an e-cigarette to vape cannabis oil. First of all, e-cigarettes are not intended to be used to vape this product. To blame e-cigarettes for damage caused by incorrect use is simply unfair. It’s like blaming the cutlery industry for the recent rise in knife crime.
The report published in the European Respiratory Journal was exploring a scarring on the person in question’s lungs. According to the researchers this type of scarring is usually associated with exposure to hard metals such as cobalt. The authors of the study therefore connected the two and assumed that cobalt inhalation was the cause of the illness.
You would think that the authors found cobalt particles in the lung samples they took, to come up with such a conclusion. This was not the case, there was no evidence of cobalt particles in the lung samples, as John Britton picked up on.
Accompanying the unqualified conclusions was a particularly concerning commentary within the ERJ paper. The authors put forward seven of statements lambasting vaping. These claims not only failed to be based on evidence, but actually went against what current evidence tells us.
Professor John Britton comprehensively dismissed all seven claims in an article for the Science Media Centre.
Professor John Britton provides an official response
They argue that conventional quitting methods are effective – yet millions of people continue to smoke despite easy access to those methods. Vaping offers another way out, far less dangerous than smoking, and complementing – not replacing – conventional approaches.
They argue that there is no evidence that vaping is an effective cessation aid. This is false. A high quality, peer-reviewed randomised trial earlier this year showed convincingly that ecigs are twice as effective as conventional nicotine replacement therapies.
They argue that the tobacco harm reduction strategy is based on undocumented assumptions that alternative nicotine delivery products are generally harmless. But they are wrong. No credible scientist argues that vaping is 100% safe – just that it is far less harmful than smoking.
They argue that e-cigarette use is likely to increase the likelihood of smoking initiation. Not only is there no evidence for this claim, but UK smoking rates continue to fall rapidly in both adults and children. If vaping led to smoking, we would see that pattern being reversed – and it is not. There is no evidence that vaping is driving smoking prevalence up in other parts of the world either.
They argue that smokers see vaping as a viable alternative to the use of evidence-based smoking cessation services and smoking cessation pharmacotherapy. That’s true, but it is a good thing. Vaping enables smokers to quit for good. It’s helping smokers, not harming them.
They argue that the EU the tobacco harm reduction strategy is based on incorrect claims that we cannot curb the tobacco epidemic, and that many effective strategies exist to reduce smoking at a population level. If that is true however, why does the EU still have 100 million smokers? It’s not that other policies don’t work – it’s just completely illogical to exclude this new one.
It is unfortunate that this sort of response is ever required, but a relief that robust rebuttals are so commonly made. News stories are very commonly twisted in a way which is damaging to the vaping industry, but ultimately and more importantly to public health. We should all be grateful for the support that leading UK scientists and health professionals are providing. They know as well as we do that there is never a time when it is better to smoke than to vape.