Dr. Tim Chico and Prof. Peter Hajek critique some of the most commonly referenced concerns over e-cigarettes.
The annual ERS International Congress Conference was held last week in Milan, Italy. Leading experts in the field of respiratory conditions met to present and discuss their findings over the year. As you would expect, topics include asthma, COPD, lung cancer and smoking. But over the last few years, topics have increasingly included questions about e-cigarettes. As evidence builds for the relative safety of vaping over smoking, the tone has begun to shift around e-cigarettes at the conference. But there is still a long way to go, as the overall opinion is still largely against vaping, citing questions that have mostly been debunked. Two leading health experts recently discussed some of the misinformation known to spread like wildfire, even at medical conferences.
Heart Health Experts
Dr. Tim Chico is a Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Sheffield; Reader is an academic title achieved in the UK by senior academics who have an international reputation for research. Professor Peter Hajek is Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London. Both Dr. Chico and Prof. Hajek have spent their careers fighting for the health and well-being of people across the globe. By designing research that helps expose the dangers of tobacco, they help minimize the smoking industry’s power and influence.
Dr. Chico has done extensive work on the influence of blood flow on vascular development over the last 20 plus years, earning the rank of Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine in 2014. Professor Peter Hajek has been working in the field for decades, with over 300 published works on developing and evaluating behavioral and pharmacological treatments for smoking. Dr. Hajek is also well known in the e-cigarette world as one of the first legitimate researchers to truly support vaping as a smoking cessation aid. Likely his most famous paper on vaping came in the form of a 2014 critique of the World Health Organization’s stance from earlier the same year. Hajek, alongside other researchers, accused the WHO report of consisting mainly of “misleading assumptions”.
With the ERS International Congress Convention going on, Dr. Chico and Prof. Hajek both went on the record in support of vaping for smoking cessation. They explained that the real danger isn’t from e-cigarettes themselves, but rather from the misconceptions that continue to influence the average citizen’s perspective. Three of the major concerns discussed were, the effect of habitual e-cigarette use on arterial stiffness, the levels of respiratory irritants found in some brands of e-liquid, and research that indicated respiratory symptoms were worse in the dual vaping and smoking group than the only smokers.
In regards to all three Peter Hajek said, “All three findings are likely to be presented as generating concerns about vaping, but none provides a cause for alarm.” In a lot of ways this epitomizes the reputation problem facing e-cigarettes. The concerns many people have do make sense, anecdotally. It’s very challenging to actually convince people that what makes sense in their head may not be true in reality. Dr. Chico agrees, admitting that vaping does have inherent risks of its own, but that shouldn’t take away from the extremely well known and debilitating effects of smoking. In fact, he argues the risks associated with e-cigarettes are more than mitigated by the simple act of an individual actually quitting traditional cigarettes.
Prof Hajek rebutted the concerns over scary sounding substances found in e-liquids, “It is the dose that makes the poison.” Potentially harmful materials shown in e-liquids have only been found in trace amounts. These are amounts also found in many innocuous everyday objects, even naturally occurring in the human body. Hajek dismissed the other concerns by giving them further context. First he acknowledged that vaping does in fact tighten your arterial walls, but makes clear that the extent to which it does is not that of a cup of coffee, or even a high stakes sporting event. Secondly, he suggests that dual users have the highest prevalence of respiratory problems, not because vaping is making it worse, but rather the people most likely to want, but fail, to quit are the heaviest smokers.
Starting to Affect Change
The ERS International Congress Convention still largely bad mouths vaping by often equating them with cigarettes, but the tone has begun to shift. Just this year a few presentations took a fair look at e-cigarettes for their research into the effects of smoking. Presentations and critiques by public health experts that give a fair chance to vaping are incredibly important in our effort to change the rhetoric around e-cigarettes. An overwhelming majority of the general population still believe that e-cigarettes are just as bad, if not worse, than traditional cigarettes. While the sheer amount of people who still need to be educated is intimidating, work by academics like Dr. Chico and Prof. Hajek is slowly helping change the narrative.
What is the most common misconception you hear about vaping? Was there anything you thought was true about vaping before you started that you discovered was false? How do you think we can speed up the process of changing public opinion? Let us know what you think in the comments.