When 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 stop 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 prone to reintroduce smoking to a young generation who have been steadily shunning it in larger and larger numbers over recent decades. A particular fear is that young adults will test out e-cigarettes and that this is a gateway in to smoking, as well as fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A recently available detailed study well over 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds finds that younger people who experiment with e-cigarettes are usually people who already smoke cigarettes, and also then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. In addition to that, but smoking rates among young people in the united kingdom remain declining. Studies conducted currently investigating the gateway hypothesis that vaping results in smoking have tended to look at whether having ever tried an e-cigarette predicts later smoking. But young people who try out e-cigarettes will probably be distinctive from those that don’t in plenty of different ways – maybe they’re just more keen to adopt risks, which will also increase the likelihood that they’d try out cigarettes too, no matter whether they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although you will find a small minority of young adults that do begin to use best e cigs on the market without previously becoming a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence this then increases the chance of them becoming cigarette smokers. Increase this reports from Public Health England who have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you might think that could be the conclusion from the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided people health community, with researchers that have the most popular purpose of decreasing the amounts of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides from the debate. This really is concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the identical findings are being used by each side to support and criticise e-cigarettes. And all of this disagreement is playing out in the media, meaning an unclear picture of what we understand (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes is being portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and those that have not made an effort to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no reason for switching, as e-cigarettes may be just as harmful as smoking.
An unexpected results of this might be which it causes it to be harder to accomplish the very research needed to elucidate longer-term effects of e-cigarettes. And this is one thing we’re experiencing while we try to recruit for our current study. We are conducting a research project funded by CRUK, where we’re collecting saliva samples from smokers, vapers and non-smokers. We’re checking out DNA methylation, a biological marker that influences gene expression. It’s been demonstrated that smokers have a distinct methylation profile, in comparison to non-smokers, and it’s possible that these alterations in methylation might be connected to the increased chance of harm from smoking – for instance cancer risk. Even if the methylation changes don’t cause the increased risk, they could be a marker of this. We would like to compare the patterns observed in smokers and non-smokers with those of e-cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight in to the long term impact of vaping, while not having to wait around for time and energy to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly than the beginning of chronic illnesses.
Area of the difficulty using this is that we understand that smokers and ex-smokers possess a distinct methylation pattern, so we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, meaning we have to recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only rarely) smoked. And also this is proving challenging for just two reasons. Firstly, as borne out from the recent research, it’s very rare for individuals who’ve never smoked cigarettes to take up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily result in an electronic cigarette habit.
But on top of that, an unexpected problem continues to be the unwillingness of some within the vaping community to aid us recruit. And they’re put off 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 wish to downplay the extreme helpfulness of plenty of people within the vaping community in aiding us to recruit – thanks a lot, you already know what you are about. But I was really disheartened to hear that for many, the misinformation and scaremongering around vaping has reached the stage where they’re opting out of the research entirely. And after talking with people directly about this, it’s hard to criticize their reasoning. We have also discovered that numerous electronic cigarette retailers were resistant against setting up posters aiming cwctdr recruit people who’d never smoked, as they didn’t wish to be seen to become promoting electronic cigarette use in people who’d never smoked, that is again completely understandable and really should be applauded.
So what can we all do relating to this? I hope that as increasing numbers of scientific studies are conducted, and that we get clearer info on e-cigarettes capability to work as a quitting smoking tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. For the time being, Hopefully vapers still agree to take part in research therefore we can fully explore the chance of these devices, specifically those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they could be crucial to helping us comprehend the impact of vaping, when compared with smoking.