The Director of UNC’s Obstructive Lung Diseases Clinical and Translational Research Center firmly believes vaping is neither reducing harm or helping people quit, but acknowledges years of more research is required to actually know.
The University of North Carolina published a preliminary study that claimed to find no evidence of the oft reported harm reduction or smoking cessation value of e-cigarettes. The project, which was an observational study, looked at the data collected from two separate studies. Lead researcher M. Bradley Drummond and his team were trying to find a connection between change in respiratory function and use of e-cigarettes. They reported that COPD symptoms in vapers seemed to be worse than in only-smokers. The researchers focused in on this finding, and wrote most of their report about e-cigarettes having no legitimate harm reduction value, including discrediting their effectiveness as a smoking cessation tool.
Contending with Mounting Evidence
Both claims of the UNC study seemingly fly in the face of mounting evidence from around the world that indicates a significant harm reduction value of vaping. One of the most well known is the large scale 2015 study done by Public Health England (England’s Executive Health Agency) that found e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than combustible cigarettes. Just last year, research out of San Diego State University found no difference in the level of airborne contaminants between vaping households and non-smoking ones.
UNC’s claim that e-cigarettes don’t help people quit smoking is faced with a plethora of contradictory information. New research released last month from Rutgers and Columbia Universities found that over half of daily vapers fully quit smoking. The joint effort study found that e-cigarette users were three times as likely to quit than those who had never used them. But this was contingent on if users vaped everyday or only occasionally. Ultimately this is the real issue, with many studies finding no discernible value of e-cigarettes due more to poor research framing and recording decisions than a lack of any value.
It’s understandable when a researcher misses a critical piece of contextual information that leads them to the wrong conclusions. But blatant contradiction of your stance indicates either a lack of awareness or disregard for legitimacy altogether. This is exactly what the director of UNC’s Obstructive Lung Diseases Research Center and lead researcher on the study, M. Bradley Drummond, did when he was recently quoted in Durham County newspaper, the Herald Sun. In his condemning of e-cigarettes, Dr. Drummond even went as far as to say “Individuals who had tried e-cigarettes as a way to reduce their use of conventional cigarettes were actually less likely to reduce their use or quit combustible cigarettes than those who had never tried e-cigarettes”. Soon after in the same interview, he acknowledges that with only three years worth of data to look at they couldn’t really say much. He even admitted that researchers need “10 or more years of data” to truly understand the effects of vaping.
We can all agree that traditional cigarettes are extremely detrimental to the health and well-being of you and everyone around you. If we still require a lot more research to really understand vaping (as admitted by Drummond), then why would we treat it in the same way as the product we know for certain is actively killing its users? This sort of guilty until proven innocent mindset is completely contradictory to how peer reviewed science works. This would hold true even if no legitimate evidence to the benefits of vaping existed, but in the face of a mounting consensus, this stance is transparently flawed.
Research and quotes like this, whether misinformed or malicious, are at the root of the perception problems facing vaping. The real trouble being the cyclical nature of the problem. Misinformation feeds the public understanding of e-cigarettes, which informs the shoddy research premises that in turn help feed the public misinformation again. The only way to break the cycle is to educate those who may be interested with the best sources of information available, not just the ones that pander to the most people.
What do you think about UNC’s new study? Do you think that vaping is less dangerous than smoking? Have you, or someone you know, quit smoking by using vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments.