A recent study making the rounds in the mainstream media has been rebuked by world-renowned tobacco control expert, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos
A study discussed widely by many popular news sources earlier this year, claims to have found some serious dangers of e-cigarettes. This study, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal claimed to have discovered extraordinarily high and toxic levels of materials like lead and arsenic in e-liquids and vapor. The study claimed these levels were found in the “real world conditions” of 56 vapers and their devices. They concluded that the toxic metals were originating in the coils of the devices and that vapers who changed their coils more often were exposed to more of the materials.
With this, the research team out of Johns Hopkins concluded that the coils of e-cigarettes and vaporizers were responsible for actively leaking toxic metals into the e-liquids and vapor that they heated. These were dire claims, and so with their usual dramatic flair, the anti-vaping lobbyists and media outlets picked up the story and spread it fast. In doing so, they completely overlooked that many independent, respected academics found the study poorly designed and completely unreliable.
World famous tobacco control expert, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, was one of the first to speak out about the study’s results. Dr. Farsalinos is likely most well known for replicating studies with such extreme results to keep them accountable. Almost a year ago he published two such studies. His replication of this Johns Hopkins study is not yet complete, but he has, on his Facebook page, made a note of some of the more questionable findings.
Understanding the criterias of “Normal” is the first step in setting the bar. Otherwise, terminology like dihydrogen monoxide can be alarming when in reality it is just another name for water. Context is key, as Dr. Farsalinos explains, “Significant amount’ of metals the authors reported they found were measured in ug/kg. In fact, they are so low that for some cases (chromium and lead) I calculated that you need to vape more than 100 ml per day in order to exceed the FDA limits for daily intake from inhalation medications.” Meaning that the terminology and measurements that were the result of the survey were inherently skewed. Putting just this one piece of information into the right context takes these scary results and brings them in the light of day.
Dr. Farsalinos, though one of the first and more well known among the vaping community, is not the only scientific mind calling this study into question. Dr. David Dawit, the Chief Scientific Officer at Eosscientific, called the study “fraught with methodological flaws.” Eosscientific is a maker of e-liquids, so there may be some inherent bias, but even with a grain of salt Dr. Dawit’s has a better understanding of e-liquids than many others in the scientific community.
Dr. Dawit calls into question why critical pieces of information were omitted, and if it was done purposefully to skew the public’s opinion further. Information about the devices tested would make the study more viable for replication. But by omitting these key pieces, the study cannot be properly peer-reviewed.
Once again the mainstream media, making a profit of a dramatic headline, was duped by a poorly designed study. It is this sensationalized coverage of vaping and e-cigarettes that lends to the vast amount of misunderstanding on the subject. Polls place over 25% of the population as believing that vaping is as, if not more dangerous than smoking. What’s worse is that only half that number understand the true harm reduction value of e-cigarettes.
It’s been three years now since Public Health England published their report about vaping. Their findings, which find vaping is 95% safer than smoking, point to vaping as a crucial factor in the fight to end tobacco usage. It has been almost a year since the Journal of Aerosol Science published a study concluding that a vaper’s lifetime excess cancer risk is 57,000 times lower than an equivalent smoker’s. There have also been studies, like the one out of the University of Louisville, that drive home the effectiveness of vaping’s smoking cessation powers. They found that in comparison with nicotine gum, patches, and even prescription drugs, that vaping was the most effective at smoking cessation.
It is truly upsetting that the latest sensationalized study once again overshadows all these great works done using the scientific method. Even worse is the knowledge that studies, like this one from Johns Hopkins, are the ones that the media will continue to disseminate. That ultimately will continue to skew the public’s opinion against vaping.
If we want to end smoking, if we’re going to save and improve people’s lives, we really must come together to support vaping for the value it offers. This is not a fight of headlines; this is a fight against the leading cause of preventable death in the world. We have to keep working to support vaping, so that fad studies like this don’t undermine it permanently.
Have you personally heard about the toxic metals story? Is the media looking to sell negative stories? What’s the best way to convince the general public about the value of vaping? 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.