Wednesday, August 28, 2013

French e-cigarette study, media misrepresent facts

An article published Monday in The Daily Mail announced "E-cigarettes are as harmful as cigarettes and could cause cancer, claims study." The article stated that a French consumer magazine, 60 Millions Consommateurs (60 Million Consumers), had branded the devices as 'far from the harmless gadgets they're sold as by manufacturers'. Soon, news outlets from all over the world were reporting that "E-cigarettes may be carcinogenic" and "E-cigarettes as harmful as cigarettes."

According to the 60 Millions Consommateurs, which is published by the National Consumers' Institute (a government-funded organization somewhat similar to Consumer Reports in the U.S.), their researchers tested 10 e-cigarettes. This "report" comes after the French government announced in May this year its intent to ban electronic cigarette use in public places, which has outraged French e-cigarette consumers and sellers.

After the news broke, Clive Bates, former head of ASH-UK and a tobacco harm reduction advocate, announced on his blog that he had issued a complaint about the Daily Mail article to the Press Complaints Commission .

"There are many flaws in the Mail article, mostly shoddy health journalism and lack of balance or proportion, and life is too short to go into them all," Bates wrote in a post titled "Lazy, stupid, wrong – the Mail can’t stop itself."

The web version of the article has since been re-titled "E-cigarettes contain chemicals that make some 'as harmful as normal tobacco'."

On Tuesday, the magazine posted another article with a few more details about its test results, which allowed experts to partially evaluate the findings.

MSN.com reported an interview with Drexel University Professor Igor Burstyn, who told them he is skeptical of the study. The article was titled "Rumor: E-cigarettes are as harmful as the real things," and it concluded that the rumor was "unconfirmed" and that "the bulk of research says they're much safer."

According to the MSN article:
Dr. Burstyn recently published the largest, most comprehensive assessment of research on E-cigarette safety released thus far. (Peering through the mist: What does the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tell us about health risks?) That meant looking at dozens of studies done all over the world involving more than 9,000 subjects. His conclusion: “Current data do not indicate that exposures to vapors from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern.” A conclusion supported by other health researchers in Palgrave Macmillan, a journal of public health policy. 
After reviewing all available information, the Scientific Director for The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives, Dr. Carl V Phillips, surmised that "it is almost certain that they used faulty methods, overheating in particular, because that is what produces high levels of acrolein. In previous studies, high levels of formaldehyde have been identified as lab errors, not output from the e-cigarettes.  As for the metals, Burstyn has already explained that without knowing what molecular form they were in, the information is useless."

"This is why real scientific publications include a methods section," he continued. "We basically have no idea what they did, though it is pretty clear their methods were faulty to the point of this being almost completely junk.  The 'almost' refers to the fact that perhaps high levels of acetaldehyde are created by certain flavorings.  But, again, since we have no idea what they tested or how, we can make no sense of what was reported."

Dr. Phillips concluded, "this is more of a marketing con than a scientific study."

"The same chemicals were tested in 12 brands of e-cigarettes in a study by Goniewicz and coworkers that was published earlier this year," added  Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a researcher at Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens-Greece, in a commentary on Ecigarette-Research.com. "So, nothing new was tested in the French study. More importantly, the results of the French study are almost identical to those of Goniewicz."

"I cannot explain why worldwide media refer to this study as if it is the most important discovery about e-cigarettes," he wrote.

In the MSN article, Burstyn said his professional research has even informed his personal life, as he told them that he's worked hard to convince his wife to quit traditional cigarettes in favor of the newer e-versions. "Smoking a regular cigarette is like running on the highway in flip-flops," he said. "E-cigs is taking a taxi."

8 comments:

starlyte said...

Unfortunately, there is much more at stake in the Ecig polemic than simply health issues. If even 50% of smokers changed to Ecigs, how much money would be lost by a)The government, in taxes on real tobacco products; b) the Pharmaceutical Industry, on the sale of their relatively unsuccessful patches, sprays, gum and the like; c)the Tobacco Industry in sales of cigarettes, and tobacco as a whole.
These factors are of greater importance to many in comparison to our health, which in reality is important only to the individual, and rare organisations that aren't affected by lobbying coming from the parties who risk losses if Ecigs are popular alternatives to smoking, or to "conventional" methods, rarely successful, of THR.
I find this very sad, as the human race puts money before health. Humanity is a long way from an approach altruist to our health problems, especially those of addiction, no matter the product.

starlyte said...

I would just add that we don't seem to have progressed in our atitude towards new items since the introduction, much frowned on by many, of the potatoe. Ecigs are new, and for me, a smoker for nearly 45 years, they were an invention which enabled me to quit smoking from the first day I used them, over a year ago. Now a real cigarette has a taste so horrible that I wonder how I ever smoked them. I now have a sense of smell, taste and liberty which I'd not experienced since I started smoking, at an epoch when it wasn't considered a danger, unfortunately. No other method worked for me. I thought I would finish by smoking myself to death.
Easy access, at the local supermarket, to Ecigs helped to start me on the path of ex-smoker.

Chris Cox said...

Who are they getting money for research from. I am sure philip morris would love for these to be regulated! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EZB447U

Terry Malick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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