Editor of a leading tobacco research journal bans use of “tobacco products” when talking about vaporizers
More than we supporters would like to admit, the vaping industry has been subject to poor public perception. For the past decade, there have been a growing number of reputable scientific studies conducted that prove and support the fact that vaping is vastly safer than smoking. Despite this, a poll conducted by Action on Smoking and Health found that only 13% of the adults surveyed thought vaping was safer. An even more significant percentage thought that vaping as bad or worse than smoking. Apparently, there is a lack of public education on the matter, which may also have a part in why the vast majority of individuals believe that vaporizers are a tobacco product.
While for most people this misunderstanding of the matter may not be a huge deal, now scientific journals are also making the same mistake. The term “tobacco product” is hugely misleading when referring to e-cigarettes. It is baffling then to see some of these respected publications and educated scientists still lump vaping into that category. The continued use of it only reinforces the public’s misperception that it is just as bad as smoking.
However, Marcus Munafo, editor and chief of Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is putting his foot down about it. Recently he wrote and published an Op-Ed that called out researchers using the incorrect term. He indicated in this article that his publication would not accept studies that used the misleading term. This could be a massive W in the books for vaping, let’s look into why that is.
Munafo’s Policy Change
The stance Munafo has taken on this issue is substantial. It could ultimately be a game changer for vaping in regards to the public’s understanding and perception. The op-ed was published on the Oxford Academic site, and places blame on the FDA for this misleading trend. Munafo says it is the FDA’s insistence that vaporizers be lumped in with “tobacco products” that is causing scientists to do the same, even though vaporizers are simply not a tobacco product.
Munafo says the FDA’s choice in flawed labeling does not and ought not to give scientists a pass to use incorrect terminology. A primary function of science and the resulting research is to be clear and spread accurate, unbiased information. In his op-ed Munafo specifies “Our preference is for the term ‘tobacco products’ to be reserved for those products that are made from and contain tobacco. The term ‘nicotine-containing products’ is more general, and can be applied to tobacco products but also non-tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies.”
Munafo admits that “nicotine-containing product” is still a flawed label as there are a large number of e-liquids on the market that are nicotine free. This however only supports the need for better descriptors for academic writing and beyond. The traditionally used term ENDS, Electronic Nicotine Delivery System, is not even adequate to describe vaporizers. Munafo’s goal is to find terminology for vaporizers that is “clear, unambiguous, and scientifically appropriate.”
What We Know
Changing this terminology is significant for public perception and the vaping industry at large. There must be clear terms that relay to the public how dramatically different vaping is from smoking. In 2015 Public Health England, England’s federal health agency published a study that found vaping to be 95% safer than smoking. Then just last fall a study published in the Journal of Aerosol Science found that the excess cancer risk for a vaper is 57,000 times lower than that of a smoker. These are staggeringly dramatic differences, and they are entirely undercut when vaping is lumped in with “tobacco products.”
Vaping isn’t just useful for harm reduction either. Vaping is excellent at its intended purpose, as a smoking cessation tool. A study out of the University of Louisville concluded that vaping is, in fact, the most effective smoking cessation tool on the market. Their results found it more useful than gums, patches, and even prescription medications like Chantix.
Using terms that clarify what vaping actually is could be vital to improving public opinion. E-liquids do not contain any tobacco, many do not even contain nicotine. Smoking and vaping appear similar to outsiders as they have many of the same traits and practices. An individual could be forgiven for thinking they’re similar if they’ve never had a reason to learn about them. The scientific community, however, is supposed to understand and explain their topic accurately. That is the reason why it is such a massive implication for the future that this editor of a major research journal will be prohibiting the misleading term.
If researchers are able to truly clarify the difference then, hopefully, the general public will see it too. If that is able to happen, then we are more likely to have vaping seen widely as a fantastic smoking cessation tool with some astounding harm reduction benefits. No other device has seen such a high success rate at helping people quit. If this tool can become acceptable socially, then it will be much more likely smokers give it a try. If we can get people to understand and believe that vaping is substantially safer than smoking, then we may one day live to see a world in which smoking is not the leading cause of preventable deaths in the world.
Should we be working toward a distinction between vaping and smoking in the general public? Will this latest move have the desired effect on understanding? How can we best make a stronger case for vaping in the general public? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.