Dr. Farsalinos takes to his well known “E-Cigarette Research” blog to discredit two recent vaping studies for their unrealistic research design
Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos is a well-known researcher in the field of vaping. He’s been studying the effects of long-term e-cigarette usage for over ten years. He’s built a reputation for being unafraid to call out the media and even other researchers for unethical and misleading practices. Having conducted nearly 50 studies looking at the benefits of vaping over smoking, his work has often been referenced by members of the EU when discussing what route to take with vaping regulation.
Over the last few years, he’s been studying the effect of vaping on heart tissue, proving for the first time a few years ago that vaping has a much less adverse impact on myocardial function than smoking. More recently he is rallying against a familiar enemy, namely misleading and poorly designed studies. On a post for his famous “E-Cigarette Research” blog last week, Dr. Farsalinos made an update on a prediction he made last December, stating “on December 15 2016, I was asked about my predictions for 2017 about the future of vaping and I mentioned that: “Bad quality studies accompanied by impressive press statements are becoming increasingly frequent … I think we will see some interesting developments in this aspect soon.”
Dr. Farsalinos conducted replication studies on research that claimed to prove much higher levels of chemicals like formaldehyde in e-cigarette vapor compared to traditional cigarette smoke. First, he discussed his replication of a study out of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study in question claimed to prove that vaping is 5 to 15 times more carcinogenic than smoking. Of course, this claim caused quite a stir in the media, being picked up by major outlets and publications around the US and the world. Dr. Farsalinos was not convinced by their claims and set out to replicate the testing conditions to see how they achieved these results. He published his replication study just last week, and the results were telling.
To conduct this replication, they used the same model of atomizer used by the original researchers and tested what level of formaldehyde is present depending on different usage conditions. The atomizer in question was a CE4 atomizer, which is much less advanced than what is currently on the market. In fact, this type of atomizer is not even available in the EU anymore. Even so, they were not able to reproduce the results from the NEJM study until they increased the voltage far beyond the point of real-world situations. Dry puffs were reported at around 4.2V, but it wasn’t until upwards of 5.0V that anything approaching the original studies detected levels were found. This result is even more evident when you consider that the CE4 atomizers are much more likely to produce high levels of formaldehyde than modern atomizers.
The second study that Dr. Farsalinos decided to try and replicate supposedly found that 5ml of e-liquid exposed users to as much aldehyde as 3200 combustible cigarettes. This study was published in Environmental Science and Technology but also required conditions that just aren’t going to happen in the real world. They also used old CE4 atomizers, but this time requested five-second puffs at 3.8V and an unrealistic 4.8V. But this time the researchers weren’t satisfied with merely creating unrealistic scenarios, they seem to have actually embellished their results. Dr. Farsalinos and his team found that even at 4.8V the recorded level of aldehyde’s was between 6 and 25 times lower than reported by the original study.
What’s more is when Dr. Farsalinos used a relatively new atomizer (the Nautilus Mini) he found that the daily 5ml of e-liquid would expose users to 99.8% fewer carcinogens than smoking 20 cigarettes in the same span.
Dr. Farsalinos’ biggest concern is rightfully not the poor research practices, but rather how the media takes these shoddy studies and turn them into huge headlines designed to scare the public. He feels that this is the biggest cause of such poor public perception statistics regarding vaping. But he acknowledges that this trend starts with the researchers and therefore more attention needs to be paid to relevant circumstances, such as the presence of dry puffs. This is the prime example of something well known by most vapers but is still mostly neglected by researchers looking to study different vaping conditions.
Whoever is more to blame, the researchers or the media, the result is the same. A substantial percentage of the general public do not understand that vaping is much safer than smoking. Therefore countless smokers will never even try vaping despite the fact it could likely prove to be the tool they need to get over the smoking hump.
Do you think poor research design is a big problem? Do you think researchers or the media cause a bigger problem? How do you think we should deal with the poor public perception of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments.