More Bad Science: Bogus Study Claims Vaping Creates New Smokers and Hinders Smoking Cessation
The world’s laziest scientists are at it again, publishing bad research and broadcasting conclusions that are completely unfounded. The most recent culprits come to us from Switzerland with a vaping study published in the Swiss Medical Weekly. The scientists set out to discover if vaping would help or hinder smoking cessation. They followed more than 5,000 20-year-old men over a fifteen-month period to see how their tobacco use evolved. At the end of the study, they concluded that vapers were actually more likely to start smoking and had lower success rates with quit attempts. They claimed that their study was proof that there are “no beneficial effects of vaping… for either smoking cessation or smoking reduction.”
It didn’t take long for vape hater Dr. Stan Glantz to latch onto the study and start promoting it as proof that vaping is a doorway to doom. He claimed that this research is the proof we needed to demonstrate that vaping is harmful and actually causes “more progression to smoking and less quitting.” There’s just one major problem. The Swiss scientists and Dr. Glantz have completely misrepresented the findings of the study. If you look at the actual data, their conclusions are not supported at all.
The study itself was meant to compare changes in tobacco use from the initial interview to a follow-up interview after 15 months. But if you look carefully at the fine print in the methods portion of the study, you will find a huge problem. “At follow-up, participants were asked whether they had used ECs in the previous 12 months.” That is the only description provided of how the scientists actually measured use of vapor devices.
Instead of establishing a baseline to identify which participants were vaping and which participants were smoking, they simply asked each individual in the exit interview if they used a vapor device at any point within the last twelve months. If the participant said yes, they were immediately grouped into the vaper category. So even if a smoker took a single puff of an ecig over the twelve-month period, the scientists classified him as a vaper and blamed his tobacco habits on that single puff.
The researchers failed to actually measure how the regular use of vapor devices impacted smoking habits. Participants were never asked about the frequency of their ecigarette use or the duration of time that they continued to vape. Instead they asked a bunch of young adults about their tobacco use in the previous year and then threw in a single question to find out if they had ever used an e-cigarette. It was a study guaranteed to give vague results that could be manipulated to support a desired conclusion.
In reality, the study results could lend a completely different conclusion. Instead of assuming that vaping preceded tobacco use, we could assume that tobacco use was initiated first and then later the participants switched to vaping in an attempt to stop smoking. If that were the case, then the study proves that vaping is actually a helpful alternative for smokers who want to kick the habit.
Obviously, this study was carried out with a predetermined conclusion in mind. Otherwise, why would scientists fail to ask the simplest questions about ecigarette use? By selectively ignoring key questions during participant surveys, the research team was able to manipulate the study to give them the results they hoped to achieve. At the end of the day, that’s just not good science. You can’t collect vague data and then use it to support a pre-selected position. When the data doesn’t provide clear and precise answers and there is no baseline to compare new data against, all the information collected is worthless.
To make matters worse, this study is being passed around dozens of media outlets as further reason to ban vaping. The study’s conclusion is assumed to be legitimate without even a glance at the actual data. That is the world we live in. Anyone can claim to have scientific proof to support their position and the world believes them just because they attached the word “research” or “science”. This study is just one more reminder that you can’t believe everything you read. If you spot a vaping study in the news that seems off kilter, don’t ignore it. Take time to dig deeper and chances are that bad science is hiding in plain sight.