Thursday, January 12, 2012

Greek e-cigarette study called "amateur propaganda"

"This is the first evidence that just one (e-cigarette) use can have acute physiologic effects," said lead researcher Constantine I. Vardavas, of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard School of Public Health.
For the new study, Vardavas and colleagues in Athens had 30 healthy smokers puff on an e-cigarette to see how it affected their airways. 
The researchers found that after five minutes, users showed signs of airway constriction -- as measured by several types of breathing tests -- and of inflammation.
Or so says this quote from a recent Reuters article. Of course, the anti-tobacco and nicotine crowd, along with some media outlets, have picked up on this as "proof" that e-cigarettes are not "safe."

However, in a review by Dr. Michael Siegel of the published research paper, the study actually shows that "in contrast to both tobacco cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, which have been shown to cause acute impairment of lung function, electronic cigarettes have no acute effect on pulmonary function as measured by spirometry testing."

"In contrast to what some are reporting, the study found no effect of e-cigarettes on lung function, as measured by spirometry. This is in contrast to tobacco smoking, which does have effects on lung function that can be measured using spirometric testing," Dr. Siegel reported.

"While previous research indicates that active smoking and even secondhand smoke exposure can affect acute lung function as measured by spirometry, the study demonstrated that electronic cigarette use led to no impairment of lung function detectable via spirometric testing."

"What the study did show was subclinical evidence of impaired lung function, meaning that the observed (measurable) lung function was unchanged, but that there was evidence of physiologic effects consistent with some bronchial inflammation. What is not known is whether this acute bronchial inflammation has any significance in the long-term. The presence of bronchial inflammation may be a result of propylene glycol having a respiratory irritant effect. But this does not necessarily mean that long-term exposure would lead to any adverse effect on lung function. More research is necessary to clarify that point," he wrote.

Dr. Siegel also criticized the study, because it "failed to compare the acute respiratory effects of electronic cigarette exposure with those of active smoking, which is the most important comparison that needs to be made."

Dr. Paul Bergen, a tobacco harm reduction researcher, agreed, writing that "since this is supposed to be addressing the viability of e-cigarettes as alternatives for smokers, how about doing the obvious and comparing the airway constriction effects on smokers after a smoke and after a vape."

The American Council on Science and Health called the study "amateur propaganda"  and ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom stated, “The moment I saw that they didn't run the same experiment using actual cigarettes," he says, "I knew this was pure (and not even especially well done) junk — an agenda-based report clumsily masquerading as science.”

According to the ACSH commentary, "the study’s lead researcher recommends that, instead of trying e-cigarettes as a reduced-risk method to quit smoking, smokers should “stick to the methods that are known to work.”

But ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross criticized this recommendation. “He would have more accurately said, ‘stick to the methods that are known to not work,’ since those currently approved have a ‘success’ rate of only 5 to 10 percent," said Dr. Ross. "It’s the old ‘quit or die,’ abstinence-only agenda.”

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