No, vapes are not 95% less harmful than cigarettes. Here’s How This Decade-Old Myth Got Busted

Vape drip tips stand on the counter of a vape store on May 2, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. , Photo Credit: Reuters

It’s 2013. Harlem Shake is on the radio and e cigarette Things are being made. A group of researchers convenes to discuss these and other nicotine-containing products.

one in 2014 paper Detailing the results of that meeting, the authors rated “electronic nicotine delivery systems” (e-cigarettes) to be “only 4%” of the maximum relative harm to cigarettes.

Critically, the authors said that “understanding of the potential hazards” of e-cigarettes was “at a very early stage” because they lacked “rigorous evidence for the harm of most products on most criteria”.

Read this also | E-Cigarettes: How Dangerous Is Vaping? science remains hazy

In other words, he noted that their work was methodologically weak and that their guesses were just that – guesses based on their opinion rather than scientific evidence.

But one of those “estimates” has become the most cited piece of vaping misinformation globally: e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.

The problem is, it’s wrong.

guess how

Public Health England used the 95% figure its 2015 review about e-cigarettes, but failed to mention the warnings of guesswork.

This prompted widespread criticism from experts. an editorial in the Lancet The Medical Journal labeled the 2014 paper an “extraordinarily weak foundation” on which to base the key findings of the Public Health England review.

the Lancet The editorial notes that Public Health England used the estimate despite being based on “the opinion of a small group of individuals with no preconceived expertise in tobacco control” and “an almost complete absence of evidence”.

A 2015 editorial also raised concerns about conflicts of interest, noting that some of the researchers involved in developing the estimates Connection to Big Tobacco, These conflicts were further described in the British Medical Journal. september And november,

Despite this, the 95% figure remained in communication with Public Health England. had spread to e-cigarette advertising,

By 2020, it was estimated be a “factual”: Incredible information repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact. Yet given the mounting evidence of harms associated with e-cigarette use, this fact was less valid even seven years later.

How has it been used in Australia

Industry and its allies have been so effective at publicizing this unscientific conjecture, it is being used to undermine Australia’s public health policy.

In submission to Australia 2020 Senate Inquiry into Tobacco Harm ReductionIndustry bodies and allies rely heavily on fact in their arguments for legalizing e-cigarettes.

Read this also | Smoke of the Vaper: On the E-Cigarette Ban

They continued to do so in the 2020 Therapeutic Goods Administration Counseling on the rescheduling of nicotine as prescription only and as recently as 2022 Counseling On proposed reforms in regulation of vaping products to limit imports and improve product standards.

How does it matter?

Although this fact has been discredited, it continues to influence people’s thinking. Misinformation researchers refer to this as continuous effect effect: Once it takes hold, it is notoriously difficult to remove.

As a digestible, attention-grabbing iconography, it is circulated in the media, and repeated over and over again. And because false information is more likely to be believed when it is repeated many times deceptive truth effect), misinformation becomes “true” even though we are told it is false.

Read this also | Offer smokers the option to switch to less harmful products

Also this year, harm reduction experts have used factoids to argue that vaping is less harmful than smoking and that Australia could look to other countries that legally sell vapes to adults without a prescription.

What is the solution?

Us bust the myth that e-cigarettes are often up to 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and with factual evidence.

Here Is that evidence:

  • E-cigarette use involves inhalation of toxic substances and has been linked to poisoning, lung injury and burns

  • Nicotine can cause dependence or addiction in e-cigarette non-smokers

  • Young nonsmokers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking and become regular smokers

  • The harm of e-cigarettes does not decrease if users continue to smoke (which mostly do, this study found No difference between smoking-related illness and self-reported health of e-cigarette users and non-smokers six years later.

Public health policies should be informed by unbiased evidence, not industry-backed hypotheses. It’s time to kick off the factoids back in 2013 with The Harlem Shake.


michelle boylisAssociate Professor, Melbourne Center for Behavior Change, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. read the original article,