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 will almost without fail sing the praises of the device that finally helped them quit smoking. But often people who’ve never tried e-cigarettes will focus on the potential risks from utilizing them, and in particular whether they’re likely to reintroduce smoking to a young generation who have been steadily shunning it in larger and larger numbers over recent decades. A particular fear is that young people will try out e-cigarettes and that this will be a gateway in to smoking, along with fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A recently available detailed study of over 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds has found that young people who test out e-cigarettes are generally people who already smoke cigarettes, and even then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. Not just that, but smoking rates among young people in the UK remain 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 younger people who test out e-cigarettes are going to be distinctive from those who don’t in plenty of alternative methods – maybe they’re just more keen to consider risks, which will also increase the likelihood that they’d experiment with cigarettes too, whether or not they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although there are a small minority of young people that do commence to use e-cigarettes without previously being a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence that the then increases the chance of them becoming Health E Cigarette Review. Enhance this reports from Public Health England which have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you might think that would be the final from the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided the public health community, with researchers who may have the most popular aim of reducing the amounts of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides of the debate. This can be concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the same findings are employed by either side to back up and criticise e-cigarettes. And all sorts of this disagreement is playing in the media, meaning an unclear picture of what we understand (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes has been portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and people who have not yet made an effort to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no part of switching, as e-cigarettes could be just as harmful as smoking.
An unexpected results of this may be that it can make it harder to do the very research necessary to elucidate longer-term results of e-cigarettes. Which is one thing we’re experiencing as we attempt to recruit for your 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 demonstrated that smokers possess a distinct methylation profile, compared to non-smokers, and it’s possible that these changes in methylation could be linked to the increased risk of harm from smoking – as an example cancer risk. Even when the methylation changes don’t cause the increased risk, they may be a marker of it. We want to compare the patterns observed in smokers and non-smokers with the ones from electronic cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight in the long term impact of vaping, while not having to watch for time for you to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly when compared to the start of chronic illnesses.
Part of the difficulty with this particular is that we understand that smokers and ex-smokers possess a distinct methylation pattern, and that we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, meaning we have to recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only rarely) smoked. And this is proving challenging for just two reasons. Firstly, as borne out through the recent research, it’s very rare for people who’ve never smoked cigarettes to take up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily cause an electronic cigarette habit.
But on top of that, an unexpected problem continues to be the unwillingness of some inside the vaping community to help us recruit. And they’re put off due to fears that whatever we find, the final results will be used to paint a poor picture of vaping, and vapers, by people who have an agenda to push. I don’t wish to downplay the extreme helpfulness of lots of kbajyo in the vaping community in assisting us to recruit – thank you, you know who you really are. Having Said That I was really disheartened to learn that for some, the misinformation and scaremongering around vaping has reached the stage where they’re opting out from the research entirely. And after speaking to people directly relating to this, it’s hard to criticize their reasoning. We now have also learned that numerous e-cigarette retailers were resistant to putting up posters hoping to recruit people who’d never smoked, because they didn’t want to be seen to become promoting e-cigarette use in people who’d never smoked, that is again completely understandable and really should be applauded.
So what can we do relating to this? Hopefully as increasing numbers of research is conducted, and we get clearer information about e-cigarettes capacity to work as a quitting smoking tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. Until then, Hopefully vapers still agree to take part in research so that we can fully explore the potential for these products, particularly those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they may be important to helping us comprehend the impact of vaping, in comparison with smoking.