When I tell anyone I research e-cigarettes, they almost always come with an opinion about them. Many will be vapers themselves, and those that 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 likely to reintroduce smoking to a young generation who have been steadily shunning it in larger and larger numbers over recent decades. A specific fear is that young people will try out e-cigarettes and that this will be a gateway in to smoking, along with fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A recent detailed study of more than 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds has found that young people who try out e-cigarettes are usually people who already smoke cigarettes, and even then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. Not just that, but smoking rates among young people throughout the uk continue to be declining. Studies conducted up to now 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 distinct from people who don’t in plenty of alternative methods – maybe they’re just more keen to adopt risks, which may also increase the likelihood that they’d experiment with cigarettes too, no matter whether they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although you will find a small minority of young people that do commence to use best vapor e cig without previously as being a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence this then increases the chance of them becoming cigarette smokers. Enhance this reports from Public Health England who have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you might think that might be the conclusion from the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided people health community, with researchers who may have the normal aim of decreasing the levels of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides from the debate. This can be concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the identical findings are being used by both sides to back up and criticise e-cigarettes. And all sorts of this disagreement is playing out in the media, meaning an unclear picture of the things we know (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes has been portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and people who have not yet made an effort to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no point in switching, as e-cigarettes might be equally as harmful as smoking.
An unexpected results of this may be it causes it to be harder to accomplish the research necessary to elucidate longer-term outcomes of e-cigarettes. And this is a thing we’re experiencing while we try to recruit for your current study. We have been performing a research project funded by CRUK, where we’re collecting saliva samples from smokers, vapers and non-smokers. We’re taking a look at DNA methylation, a biological marker that influences gene expression. It’s been proven that smokers use a distinct methylation profile, when compared with non-smokers, and it’s probable that these alterations in methylation may be connected to the increased probability of harm from smoking – for example cancer risk. Even if the methylation changes don’t cause the increased risk, they might be a marker of it. We want to compare the patterns observed in smokers and non-smokers with the ones from e-cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight in to the long-term impact of vaping, without needing to wait around for time to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly as compared to the beginning of chronic illnesses.
Part of the difficulty with this particular is that we understand that smokers and ex-smokers have a distinct methylation pattern, and that we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, which means we must 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 unusual for individuals who’ve never smoked cigarettes to consider up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily cause an electronic cigarette habit.
But in addition to that, an unexpected problem has become the unwillingness of some inside the vaping community to assist us recruit. And they’re postpone due to fears that whatever we discover, the outcomes will be employed to paint a negative picture of vaping, and vapers, by people with an agenda to push. I don’t want to downplay the extreme helpfulness of plenty of people inside the vaping community in helping us to recruit – thank you, you already know what you are about. But I really was disheartened to hear that for some, the misinformation and scaremongering around vaping has reached the point where they’re opting out from the research entirely. And after talking with people directly concerning this, it’s difficult to criticize their reasoning. We have also learned that several electronic cigarette retailers were resistant to setting up posters aiming cwctdr recruit people who’d never smoked, since they didn’t desire to be seen to get promoting e-cigarette use within people who’d never smoked, which is again completely understandable and should be applauded.
So what can we do concerning this? I hope that as increasing numbers of scientific studies are conducted, and we get clearer information about e-cigarettes capacity to act as a smoking cessation tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. For the time being, Hopefully vapers continue to agree to participate in research therefore we can fully explore the chance of these units, particularly those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they may be crucial to helping us comprehend the impact of vaping, in comparison with smoking.