Whenever I tell anyone I research e-cigarettes, they almost always have an opinion about them. Some will be vapers themselves, and people who are almost without fail sing the praises of the device that finally helped them give up smoking. But often people who’ve never tried e-cigarettes will focus on the potential risks from using them, and in particular whether they’re very likely to reintroduce smoking to a young generation who have been steadily shunning it in bigger numbers over recent decades. A specific fear is that younger people will experiment with e-cigarettes and that this is a gateway in to smoking, along with fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A newly released detailed study of more than 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds found that young adults who try out e-cigarettes are usually those that already smoke cigarettes, and also then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. Not just that, but smoking rates among younger people throughout the uk continue to be declining. Studies conducted to date investigating the gateway hypothesis that vaping contributes to smoking have tended to check out whether having ever tried an e-cigarette predicts later smoking. But young adults who test out e-cigarettes will probably be distinct from those who don’t in plenty of other ways – maybe they’re just more keen to consider risks, which will also raise the likelihood that they’d try out cigarettes too, no matter whether they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although you will find a small minority of young adults who do commence to use best electronic cigarettes without previously being a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence that the then increases the potential risk of them becoming cigarette smokers. Add to this reports from Public Health England that have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you might think that might be the conclusion from the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided people health community, with researchers who have the most popular purpose of lowering the amounts of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides of the debate. This is concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the identical findings are being used by both sides to support and criticise e-cigarettes. And all this disagreement is playing in the media, meaning an unclear picture of the things we understand (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes has been portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and people who have not even tried to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no reason for switching, as e-cigarettes could be just as harmful as smoking.
An unexpected results of this might be it can make it harder to do the research needed to elucidate longer-term results of e-cigarettes. And this is one thing we’re experiencing since we attempt to recruit for our current study. Our company is performing 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 have a distinct methylation profile, compared to non-smokers, and it’s probable that these changes in methylation could be connected to the increased risk of harm from smoking – as an example cancer risk. Whether or not the methylation changes don’t cause the increased risk, they might be a marker from it. We wish to compare the patterns seen in smokers and non-smokers with those of electronic cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight into the long term impact of vaping, without needing to watch for time to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly than the beginning of chronic illnesses.
Area of the difficulty with this particular is the fact we understand that smokers and ex-smokers use a distinct methylation pattern, and that we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, which means we have to recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only hardly ever) smoked. Which is proving challenging for two reasons. Firstly, as borne out through the recent research, it’s rare for folks who’ve never smoked cigarettes to adopt up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily cause an electronic cigarette habit.
But additionally, an unexpected problem continues to be the unwillingness of some in the vaping community to aid us recruit. And they’re postpone because of fears that whatever we discover, the results will be used to paint a negative picture of vaping, and vapers, by people who have an agenda to push. I don’t want to downplay the extreme helpfulness of plenty of people inside the vaping community in aiding us to recruit – thank you, you understand who you really are. Having Said That I really was disheartened to know that for some, 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 relating to this, it’s hard to criticize their reasoning. We have also learned that numerous electronic cigarette retailers were immune to setting up posters aiming cwctdr recruit people who’d never smoked, since they didn’t desire to be seen to get promoting e-cigarette use in people who’d never smoked, which is again completely understandable and really should be applauded.
Exactly what can perform concerning this? Hopefully as increasing numbers of research is conducted, so we get clearer info on e-cigarettes capacity to act as a quitting smoking tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. For the time being, Hopefully vapers carry on and agree to participate in research so we can fully explore the chance of these products, in particular those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they might be important to helping us be aware of the impact of vaping, when compared with smoking.