Monday, July 11, 2016

CASAA: SoCal Researchers Ignore Historic Low Smoking Rates in Youth, Unjustifiably Focus on Specious Claims of E-Cigarette Harms.


RE: Barrington-Trims, et al. (2016).  E-cigarettes, Cigarettes, and the Prevalence of Adolescent Tobacco Use. Pediatrics, 138(2), 2016.
The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), once again, is disappointed to see researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) misuse data in an attempt to poison public opinion against e-cigarettes. In a paper published on Monday, July 11th, 2016, in the journal Pediatrics, USC researchers used general findings from a basic youth survey--which confirm record-low youth smoking rates--as an opportunity to express their bias, generate specious conclusions, and propagate unwarranted negative headlines.

CASAA’s Brian Carter spoke with USA Today about the study and said, "At best, this is a study that offers some small potential clue about what may be happening. To suggest anything more concrete than this is to be very unscientific by touting speculation as fact."
The researchers incorrectly label using an e-cigarette one or more times in the past 30 days as “current use.” This measure provides no details about how these groups of people are using e-cigarettes, how often they are being used, or whether they even contain nicotine. The characterization in the university press release of youth "taking up the habit [of smoking]" due to e-cigarettes is inflammatory given there is no precise data on use, much less any assessment of “habit.”
The authors’ main conclusion, that “e-cigarettes are not used only by adolescents who would otherwise be smoking cigarettes,” is based on speculative comparisons between historical smoking rates and their questionable measure of current e-cigarette use.  They imply from this comparison that e-cigarettes are recruiting new tobacco users. A more accurate interpretation of this data is that e-cigarettes are a relatively new product and those curious youth hesitant to use tobacco cigarettes, because of their widely known risks, will naturally be more inclined to experiment with e-cigarettes given their dramatically lower risks. In any case, conclusions based on these assumptions are not facts or scientific evidence. They are musings of the authors.
The authors continue their evidence-free speculation by voicing their “concern” that the assumed increase in e-cigarette “use” in youth portends increased smoking through the “gateway effect,” normalizes all tobacco use and puts adolescents at risk for “lifelong nicotine dependence,” and will subject youth to impaired cognitive functioning. This study has no data to support these highly unlikely outcomes. Nevertheless, the authors take this opportunity to mislead the public with the usual litany of baseless horrors, none of which has any conclusive grounding in scientific evidence or theory.
This study has little scientific value. Its main purpose appears to be a propaganda effort to sway public opinion against e-cigarettes based on the authors’ strong bias, arbitrary interpretation of the findings, and lack of critical thinking.

Brian Carter is the Director of Scientific Communications for CASAA
Twitter: @blc127869

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