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 certain fear is that younger people will experiment with e-cigarettes and that this can be a gateway in to smoking, in addition to fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A recently available detailed study of over 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds finds that young adults who try out e-cigarettes are often those that already smoke cigarettes, and even then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. Not only that, but smoking rates among younger people throughout the uk remain declining. Studies conducted up to now investigating the gateway hypothesis that vaping leads to smoking have tended to look at whether having ever tried an electronic cigarette predicts later smoking. But young adults who experiment with e-cigarettes will be distinct from those that don’t in lots of alternative methods – maybe they’re just more keen to take risks, which would also increase the likelihood that they’d experiment with cigarettes too, regardless of whether they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although there are a small minority of young adults that do commence to use best electronic cig without previously as being a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence this then increases the potential risk of them becoming cigarette smokers. Enhance this reports from Public Health England which have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you will think that might be the conclusion of the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided people health community, with researchers that have the most popular goal of decreasing the degrees of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides of the debate. This can be concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the same findings are being used by either side to support and criticise e-cigarettes. And all this disagreement is playing outside in the media, meaning an unclear picture of the items we know (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes will be portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and those that have not attempted to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no point in switching, as e-cigarettes may be equally as harmful as smoking.
An unexpected results of this could be that it can make it harder to accomplish the very research required to elucidate longer-term outcomes of e-cigarettes. And also this is something we’re experiencing while we attempt to recruit for your current study. We are performing a research project funded by CRUK, where we’re collecting saliva samples from smokers, vapers and non-smokers. We’re checking out DNA methylation, a biological marker that influences gene expression. It’s been shown that smokers have a distinct methylation profile, compared to non-smokers, and it’s likely that these changes in methylation might be linked to the increased chance of harm from smoking – for instance cancer risk. Even when the methylation changes don’t cause the increased risk, they could be a marker from it. We would like to compare the patterns observed in smokers and non-smokers with those of e-cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight into the long-term impact of vaping, without having to watch for time and energy to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly than the start of chronic illnesses.
Portion of the difficulty with this is that we understand that smokers and ex-smokers have a distinct methylation pattern, and we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, meaning we have to recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only very rarely) smoked. And this is proving challenging for two reasons. Firstly, as borne out from the recent research, it’s rare for individuals who’ve never smoked cigarettes to adopt up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to an electronic cigarette habit.
But additionally, an unexpected problem continues to be the unwillingness of some within the vaping community to assist us recruit. And they’re delay as a result of fears that whatever we discover, the outcomes will be employed to paint a poor picture of vaping, and vapers, by people with an agenda to push. I don’t desire to downplay the extreme helpfulness of lots of people within the vaping community in assisting us to recruit – thanks a lot, you already know who you are. But I was disheartened to learn that for many, the misinformation and scaremongering around vaping has reached the point where they’re opting out from the research entirely. And after speaking to people directly concerning this, it’s difficult to criticize their reasoning. We now have also discovered that numerous e-cigarette retailers were resistant to setting up posters aiming cwctdr recruit people who’d never smoked, as they didn’t wish to be seen to be promoting electronic cigarette use within people who’d never smoked, which can be again completely understandable and must be applauded.
What can we do concerning this? Hopefully as increasing numbers of research is conducted, and that we get clearer info on e-cigarettes ability to work as a smoking cessation tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. Until then, Hopefully vapers still agree to participate in research so that we can fully explore the chance of these units, particularly those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they could be essential to helping us be aware of the impact of vaping, when compared with smoking.