The e-cigarette community is lashing out at an article after it misrepresented a vapour study.
Sarah Knapton, of the Telegraph, published an article, ‘E-cigarettes are no safer than smoking tobacco, scientists warn’, on December 29, 2015, that is receiving criticism from the e-cigarette community.
Adam Jacobs states on his blog, The Stats Guy, “There are such crushing levels of stupid in this article it’s hard to know where to start.” Knapton highlighted a press release published on EurekAlert! then lacked the journalistic integrity to support her article with her own research.
The original study can be found on oraloncology.com, ‘Electronic cigarettes induces DNA strand breaks and cell death independently of nicotine in cell liner’. The researchers pulled vapor extract from nicotine and nicotine free e-cigarettes from two major brands and subjected the concentration to human cells for 48 hours to 8 weeks and observed damage in the cells and damage in the DNA strands.
Knapton ignored critical aspects of the press release. The study did not compare the damage caused by e-cigarette vapor to cells damage caused by traditional nicotine cigarettes. The study used a dose of vapor that was equivalent of an individual chain smoking for hours at a time for the length of the study. Dr. Jessica Wang-Rodriquez, a lead researcher on the study, said, “in this particular study, it was similar to someone smoking continuously for hours on end, so it’s a higher amount than would normally be delivered.”
Other articles published by Kasmira Gander and Tim Radford, of the Independent and Guardian respectively, also grabbed at the key words “‘no better’ than smoking regular cigarettes”. There was no such comparison in the study.
The influence of these articles is adding to a growing assumption by the public that vapour is as harmful as cigarettes.
Public Health England even raised concerns about public perception by stating “that increasing numbers of people think e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than smoking.” When actually “the current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking” and “nearly half the population (44.8%) don’t realise e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking”
While Wang-Rodriquez admitted that more research is needed, she also stated that she wasn’t sure what actually caused the damage in the cells. It could have been the ingredients in the vapour recipes or nor was she sure if the damage was merely the nicotine reacting to the “immortal cells” that had been altered for the study.
Knapton and her journalistic irresponsibility have ignored the facts but what has angered the vaping community, is that she is greatly adding to the misperceptions about e-cigarettes. The research is inconclusive. Jumping to conclusions about a study that says a nearly unreasonably high dose of vapor damaged an altered ‘immortal cell’ doesn’t support proven facts.