Is vaping less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes? “It depends on who you talk to” seems to be the typical response given by reporters as evidenced by this most recent example:
Here’s the basic problem with that question. It has been answered. Public Health England (PHE) [and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), the guys that told the world in 1960 that smoking caused cancer] reviewed all the evidence EVERY year. That’s ALL the evidence – good & bad. After doing this for a couple years, in 2015 PHE and the RCP independently determined that, even with the known dangers, vaping was safer than smoking. So much safer in fact, that they recommended that it should be promoted. PHE continues to update their review as new information becomes available. Why? Because they’re really into this thing called science and public health.
Reporters that ask “Is vaping safer than smoking?” haven’t done the basic research to know this. They believe if they get a user and a doctor or public health ‘expert’ on set that the doctor/expert will know more than the user. Their editor will be happy because the story presents a controversial subject, and it’s a David (user) vs Goliath (doctor/expert) which gets lots of attention.
User’s of vapor products have put up with years of ignorant reportage and have done far more to look at the safety of vaping. Why? Because if you’re trying to give up smoking and you’ve tried everything else and failed you get very skeptical – and you really don’t want to die.
The doctor, on the other hand, knows very little outside their specialty – usually what they read in the papers. It’s not their area of expertise. They know smoking is bad, but most of them don’t know why, and they don’t have to. [It’s the carbon monoxide and the solid particulates that do most damage.]
To a doctor, if it’s about smoking, the only thing they’ve been taught is that patients should stop, and that there are medical interventions that are “effective”. They’ve never been told that the efficacy is in the single digits and that long-term abstinence may take years. They know nothing about vaping. They don’t know that it was invented and popularized by and for people who smoke who had failed all the other means to quit. They don’t understand that this is nothing short of a bona fide miracle for this population.
Enter the public health ‘expert’: The dragonvape.ca know what those who vape are saying. They can’t upset the order of the universe (doctors know more than vapers). Also there’s the whole problem of funding public health. [You know if you keep eliminating communicable diseases you basically work yourself out of a job.]
With smoking being one the most deadly non-communicable ‘diseases’ [look it up: ICD-10 code is F17.200] they shifted focus to ‘cure’ that disease. The only problem is (and it’s a big one) that non-communicable diseases aren’t caused by pathogens, but by the choices people make in their lives. To have any effect Public Health experts have to meddle in their lives (taxes, restrictions, bans). To do that they need to convince politicians that there is a ‘crisis’ that needs these laws to solve.
The problem for Public Health is that people don’t like to be meddled with. More annoying is that people are creative. Bootleggers are very creative for example. They manage to make billions moving completely illegal to semi-legal products about to deliver them to people who want them. Thus our intrepid Public Health warriors resort to scaring the ever loving hell out of the public. Remember Reefer Madness? How about those “This is your brain on drugs” ads with the egg frying in the pan? Flash forward to today and we have “Brain Worms“
This kind of messaging will convince a great many folks, mostly because they trust the source and don’t have time or enough understanding to question it. But there are always those who discover the propaganda and out the truth. [Anslinger/Hearst had the best run with Reefer Madness and the War On Drugs, after that fiasco the cycle of propaganda -> truth has been getting shorter.]
So here we are, reporters who are likely curious, whose editor wants a story with punch, asking questions that have been asked/answered by real authorities, having to do a Point/Counterpoint interview in the style of a 70’s Saturday Night Live sketch (minus the profanity). And the really sad part is that the reporter doesn’t know enough to know they’ve become a propaganda tool.
So here’s a tip: If you’re given a story like this, look for the the source that has reviewed ALL the evidence not just the local ‘expert’ in the Rolodex, then find out if users validate that evidence. Then you have your facts and your professional integrity is intact.
There is a great deal of evidence out there on vaping. Beware of those who can’t cite evidence that disagrees with their opinion, or if they can they only mention that the authors are not credible. That is usually one of the most salient pieces of evidence that their opinion is heavily biased and lacking careful study of the research. In other words, you’re expert fails the test of being an expert. Real experts would know the studies that disagree, and will point out those whose scientific (not author’s) credibility is lacking and why.
There are other reviews which take in all the evidence out there, and there are new developments in research as well. One of the most recent is the application of disease biomarker testing. These are blood tests that look for well known changes in the body’s functions that indicate that a disease is likely to develop or progress. Different from mouse studies, or research on lonely cells in petri dishes, these look at the real effects in real people that cause real diseases, like cancer, heart disease, lung disease. They’ve been well characterized for those who smoke. The results, for vaping, have been confirming what all the previous studies show; vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking. The real value of these studies is that they predict the long-term effects of vaping as well as these tests show the early warning signs of harm in those who smoke years before damage is actually done.
References used in this article:
The 2015 starting point for the Public Health England (PHE) reports:
On the biomarker evidence:
Long-term study comparing biomarkers of exposure between vapor products and combustible cigarettes (CRUK study)
Sci-hub access here
What the biomarkers are and information on levels between smokers/non-smokers for comparing vapor products effects (really long, very technical, skim all the way to the end and see the table and recommendations for which biomarkers matter most)
Sci-hub access here