Exposing the Junk Science that Turned the World Against Vaping

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I used to smoke a pack a day, but now I’m tobacco-free for two years and counting. This statement could come from many former smokers that have found freedom from tobacco with the help of vaping. Their changed lives are by far the greatest evidence that vaping is a smart approach to improving public health. Yet countless media reports, comments from lawmakers, and actions by the FDA show that vaping is still viewed as dangerous. Why is the perception of vaping so skewed? It all boils down to junk science.

Over the past few years, we have seen repeated “studies” published by scientists that used faulty methods or blatant bias to reach inaccurate conclusions. The media pushes out these studies as fact without doing even the most basic background checks and this irresponsible journalism has gradually turned the world against vaping.

According to a recent report from Public Health England, nearly half of the population doesn’t believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking when it’s actually 95 percent less harmful. It’s time to do some damage control and it starts by exposing the junk science and flawed research that has given vaping such a bad rap. Let’s take a look at some of the most inaccurate studies that need to be retracted.

#1 – Ecigarette Vapor Contains Hidden Formaldehyde

In this study, scientists announced that they found “formaldehyde hemiacetyls” in vapor. They concluded that vaping carries a cancer risk that is 5 to 15 times higher than smoking. However, the scientists failed to mention that they had to push the ecigarettes to unrealistic levels to generate the results they were chasing.

By simulating dry puffs at extremely high voltages, the researchers did in fact produce some formaldehyde-releasing agents. However, in a real world vaping experience, you would never vape at those settings with a dry atomizer. If you did, the taste would be horribly unpleasant. What most reports overlooked from this study was the fact that no formaldehyde was detected whatsoever when ecigs were running at reasonable settings.

It many ways, it would be like baking a cake in an oven set to 500 degrees and leaving it there for three hours. Of course, the results would be a charcoal cake full of carcinogens, but no one would actually eat it. Yet the study’s conclusion would be that people shouldn’t eat cake because it might give you cancer. This is the same logic used in the vapor study.

#2 – Vaping Turns Kids into Tobacco Users

The media had a field day with this study despite its total lack of actual scientific evidence. After conducting a survey of 2,500 14-year-olds, researchers claimed that kids who had tried vaping were much more likely to start smoking within six to 12 months. They used the survey to portray vaping as a gateway to tobacco use that is endangering adolescents. However, there were some major problems with this study when you actually look at the details of the survey. Teens were not asked if they vaped or smoked on a regular basis. The survey immediately classified participants as vapers or smokers if they tried either product even once.

The real conclusion is pretty common sense: teens that experiment with vaping are also likely to experiment with smoking. It has nothing to do with ecigs leading to tobacco use. Instead, it’s all about the fact that teens push the boundaries. Even the researchers admitted in a small note that they couldn’t determine that vaping actually caused any teen to start smoking.

#3 – Ecig Vapor Damages Lung Cells

This study is perhaps one of the worst offenders in the realm of junk science. Scientists exposed mice and human lung cells to both cigarette smoke and ecigarette vapor. They concluded that the vapor damaged lung cells and caused dangerous inflammation. It sounds bad, but a closer look shows why the researchers got such morbid results.

Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos exposed this study as erroneous when he pointed out that the researchers used massive amounts of nicotine. In fact, the lowest concentration tested was more than 500 times higher that what would be found in a smoker’s blood stream. Farsalinos said the study was just a publicity stunt with no association to actual science.

#4 – Vaping Makes It More Difficult to Quit Smoking

If you have never seen a study that is blatantly biased before, here’s a perfect example. Researchers collected data about previous ecig use from people who called into a smoking cessation helpline. They concluded that smokers who use ecigarettes are less likely to quit smoking.

There is just one major problem – there was no reliable sample group. They only surveyed people who had been unsuccessful in quit attempts using vapor devices. If vaping had worked, they would have never called the helpline to begin with. By only surveying former ecig users that were still smoking, they were guaranteed to get the results they wanted.

#5 – Secondhand Vapor Contains Toxic Particles

This study gained major media attention because researchers were saying what the anti-vaping world wanted to hear. After testing the air in the homes of a smoker, a vaper, and a non-smoker, they concluded that ecig vapor released toxic particles. However, the media didn’t present the full story and the study’s conclusion really didn’t accurately portray the data.

The particles found in the vaper’s home were much lower than what was found in the smoker’s home. The toxic particles in the vaper’s home were only microscopically higher than in a non-smoker’s home. In fact, the vaper’s home had less than one millionth of a gram more toxins than a non-smoker’s home. Whereas the smoker’s home contained 60 times more toxins. The real conclusion here is that vaping is far safer than smoking and the risk associated with inhaling secondhand vapor is almost identical to the risk of breathing regular room air.

#6 – Ecigs Produce Cancer-Causing Chemicals

When scientists tested 97 ecigarettes for acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, they claimed that 50 of those products exceeded California’s standards for safe levels of chemicals. Researchers reported that some ecigs produced formaldehyde levels reaching 473 times the acceptable limits. However, they didn’t release any details about how they tested the ecigarettes apart from saying it was under “realistic” conditions. They also failed to release any actual numbers to show the amount of chemicals found in any vapor samples.

So basically, this study is nothing more than some “scientists” that are telling the public that they tested ecigarettes in a mysterious way and they got unspecified results so you shouldn’t vape because it’s bad for you. It’s not so convincing when you take a second look.

#7 – Ecigarette Vapor Contains Antifreeze

This is one of the most shameless examples of junk science and it’s really no surprise that it comes straight from the FDA. During the 2009 study, the FDA claimed that they tested 18 different vapor devices from two brands. They detected low levels of chemicals in five samples and one singular sample contained one percent diethylene glycol, an ingredient commonly used in antifreeze.

There are numerous problems with this particular study and it has been refuted countless times. After executing numerous similar studies, scientists have never again been able to replicate the FDA’s results. Since the trace amount of diethylene glycol was only discovered in a singular sample, it’s likely that it was contaminated or a faulty product.

It’s also important to note that the low level of diethylene glycol the FDA found in the singular sample wouldn’t actually be dangerous enough to cause major concerns. In fact, diethylene glycol is an ingredient found in dozens of household products that consumers use every day. If the FDA was really so concerned about it, they would have yanked these products from the shelves years ago. It’s obvious that this study had very little to do with actually protecting public health and it was mostly aimed at criminalizing the vaping industry.

Why These Studies Matter

In any area of research, you will always find studies that are both good and bad. Unfortunately, human bias interjects itself regularly even in the scientific realm. However, these particular studies have had a devastating impact on society. The media cites this list of junk research on a regular basis. In almost every vaping-related news report, you will find a skewed study linked somewhere. As the media pushes out these myths, people believe them and don’t stop to actually question whether the information is valid and truthful.

The most devastating thing is how smokers respond to hearing these studies. When they hear that vaping is just as dangerous or even more dangerous than smoking, they immediately decide to just stick to their tobacco cigarettes. This kind of misleading research is costing lives and it’s time to hold these purported “scientists” accountable for their damaging actions.

The next time you read an article or hear a news report that cites one of these studies, don’t let it go. Show them the evidence to disprove the supposed research. Give them access to studies that can back up their conclusions with real data. We have to urge people to look further into the details of the research and see the truth. Otherwise, vaping is a lost cause.

Have you spotted other junk science circulating in the media lately? How did you respond?

Dustin has been vaping for almost a decade. He found e-cigarettes in 2008 and quickly became drawn to them as an early adopter. He's been writing reviews ever since and has established himself as a well-versed authority on the subject.

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