Whenever I tell anyone I research e-cigarettes, they almost always have a viewpoint 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 using 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 certain fear is that younger people will try out e-cigarettes and that this will be a gateway in to smoking, in addition to fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A recently available detailed study of more than 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds finds that young adults who test out e-cigarettes are often those who already smoke cigarettes, as well as then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. In addition to that, but smoking rates among young adults in the UK remain declining. Studies conducted to date investigating the gateway hypothesis that vaping leads to smoking have tended to consider whether having ever tried an e-cigarette predicts later smoking. But younger people who experiment with e-cigarettes will be different from those that don’t in a lot of other ways – maybe they’re just more keen to consider risks, which may also boost the likelihood that they’d try out cigarettes too, regardless of whether they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although you can find a small minority of younger people who do commence to use e-cigarettes without previously being a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence this then increases the potential risk of them becoming E Cig. Increase this reports from Public Health England which have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you will think that might be the conclusion in the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided the public health community, with researchers who have the common purpose of reducing the degrees of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides of the debate. This really is concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the same findings are being used by both sides to support and criticise e-cigarettes. And all of this disagreement is playing in the media, meaning an unclear picture of the items we understand (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes has been portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and people who have not yet tried to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no part of switching, as e-cigarettes could be equally as harmful as smoking.
An unexpected consequence of this might be that it causes it to be harder to perform the very research necessary to elucidate longer-term outcomes of e-cigarettes. And this is something we’re experiencing as 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 shown that smokers have a distinct methylation profile, when compared with non-smokers, and it’s possible that these modifications in methylation might be linked to the increased chance of harm from smoking – as an example cancer risk. Whether or not the methylation changes don’t result in the increased risk, they could be a marker of this. We would like to compare the patterns observed in smokers and non-smokers with the ones from electronic cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight into the long term impact of vaping, while not having to wait around for time for you to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly than the beginning of chronic illnesses.
Portion of the difficulty with this particular is the fact that we understand that smokers and ex-smokers use a distinct methylation pattern, so we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, meaning we must recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only hardly ever) smoked. Which is proving challenging for just two reasons. Firstly, as borne out by the recent research, it’s rare for people who’ve never smoked cigarettes to consider up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily cause an e-cigarette habit.
But on top of that, an unexpected problem has become the unwillingness of some inside the vaping community to assist us recruit. And they’re postpone as a result of fears that whatever we find, the results will be utilized to paint a negative picture of vaping, and vapers, by individuals with an agenda to push. I don’t want to downplay the extreme helpfulness of a lot of kbajyo within the vaping community in aiding us to recruit – thanks a lot, you know what you are about. However I was disheartened to know that for a few, 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 tough to criticize their reasoning. We now have also discovered that several electronic cigarette retailers were resistant against putting up posters looking to recruit people who’d never smoked, as they didn’t desire to be seen to be promoting e-cigarette utilization in people who’d never smoked, that is again completely understandable and must be applauded.
Exactly what can perform concerning this? I hope that as increasing numbers of scientific studies are conducted, and we get clearer information on e-cigarettes ability to work as a quitting smoking tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. For the time being, Hopefully vapers still agree to participate in research therefore we can fully explore the potential of these units, specifically those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they may be crucial to helping us comprehend the impact of vaping, in comparison with smoking.