Whenever I tell anyone I research e-cigarettes, they almost always come with an opinion about them. Some will be vapers themselves, and those who are almost without fail sing the praises of the device that finally helped them give up 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 very likely to reintroduce smoking to a young generation who’ve been steadily shunning it in larger and larger numbers over recent decades. A specific fear is that young people will experiment with e-cigarettes and that this is a gateway in to smoking, as well as fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A newly released detailed study well over 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds has found that young adults who try out e-cigarettes are often people who already smoke cigarettes, and even then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. Not only that, but smoking rates among young adults in the UK are still declining. Studies conducted currently investigating the gateway hypothesis that vaping leads to smoking have tended to look at whether having ever tried an e-cigarette predicts later smoking. But young adults who experiment with e-cigarettes will probably be distinctive from those who don’t in a lot of alternative methods – maybe they’re just more keen to consider risks, which will also increase the likelihood that they’d experiment with cigarettes too, regardless of whether they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although there are a small minority of young people who do begin to use best rated electronic cigarette without previously as being a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence that this then increases the potential risk of them becoming cigarette smokers. Enhance this reports from Public Health England that have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you might think that might be the end from the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided the public health community, with researchers who have the common aim of reducing the levels of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides in the debate. This is concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the same findings are used by each side to aid and criticise e-cigarettes. And all this disagreement is playing out in the media, meaning an unclear picture of the things we realize (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes is being portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and those that have not attempted 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 makes it harder to accomplish the particular research required to elucidate longer-term outcomes of e-cigarettes. And also this is one thing we’re experiencing since we try and recruit for your current study. We are performing a research project funded by CRUK, where we’re collecting saliva samples from smokers, vapers and non-smokers. We’re looking at DNA methylation, a biological marker that influences gene expression. It’s been proven that smokers have a distinct methylation profile, compared to non-smokers, and it’s likely that these modifications in methylation might be linked to the increased probability of harm from smoking – as an example cancer risk. Whether or not the methylation changes don’t result in the increased risk, they may be a marker from it. We want to compare the patterns noticed in smokers and non-smokers with the ones from electronic cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight in the long term impact of vaping, without having to watch for time to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly than the beginning of chronic illnesses.
Portion of the difficulty with this particular is the fact we understand that smokers and ex-smokers use a distinct methylation pattern, and that we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, which suggests we have to recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only hardly ever) smoked. Which is proving challenging for just two reasons. Firstly, as borne out from the recent research, it’s very rare for folks who’ve never smoked cigarettes to consider up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to an e-cigarette habit.
But additionally, an unexpected problem continues to be the unwillingness of some in the vaping community to help us recruit. And they’re postpone as a result of fears that whatever we discover, the results will be utilized to paint a poor picture of vaping, and vapers, by people who have an agenda to push. I don’t desire to downplay the extreme helpfulness of lots of people inside the vaping community in assisting us to recruit – thanks, you understand who you really are. However I was really disheartened to know that for many, the misinformation and scaremongering around vaping has reached the point where they’re opting out from the research entirely. And after talking to people directly concerning this, it’s hard to criticize their reasoning. We have also found that several electronic cigarette retailers were immune to putting up posters aiming cwctdr recruit people who’d never smoked, because they didn’t desire to be seen to become promoting e-cigarette utilization in people who’d never smoked, which can be again completely understandable and must be applauded.
Exactly what can perform concerning this? I hope that as more research is conducted, so we get clearer information about e-cigarettes capability to serve as a smoking cessation tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. For the time being, Hopefully vapers continue to agree to participate in research so we can fully explore the chance of these devices, in particular those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they might be essential to helping us be aware of the impact of vaping, in comparison with smoking.