Whenever I tell anyone I research e-cigarettes, they almost always have an opinion about them. A few will be vapers themselves, and those that are almost without fail sing the praises of the device that finally helped them give up 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 very likely to reintroduce smoking to a young generation who have been steadily shunning it in bigger numbers over recent decades. A specific fear is that young people will test out e-cigarettes and that this is a gateway in to smoking, along with fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A recently available detailed study of over 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds has found that young people who try out e-cigarettes are often people who already smoke cigarettes, and also then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. Not only that, but smoking rates among young people in the united kingdom continue to be declining. Studies conducted to date 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 test out e-cigarettes will probably be distinctive from those who don’t in a lot of alternative methods – maybe they’re just more keen to adopt risks, which would also boost 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 younger people that do start to use best vapor e cig without previously being a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence that the then increases the chance of them becoming cigarette smokers. Add to this reports from Public Health England which 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 the general public health community, with researchers who may have the most popular purpose of decreasing the levels of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides of the debate. This really is concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices the same findings are used by each side to support and criticise e-cigarettes. And all this disagreement is playing in the media, meaning an unclear picture of what we understand (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes has been portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and those that have not even attempted to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no reason for switching, as e-cigarettes might be just like harmful as smoking.
An unexpected consequence of this could be which it can make it harder to accomplish the research needed to elucidate longer-term outcomes of e-cigarettes. And also this is something 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 demonstrated that smokers have a distinct methylation profile, when compared with non-smokers, and it’s probable that these modifications in methylation could be linked to the increased risk of harm from smoking – as an example cancer risk. Even if the methylation changes don’t make the increased risk, they may be a marker from it. We want to compare the patterns seen 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, while not having to wait around for time for you to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly when compared to the start of chronic illnesses.
Portion of the difficulty with this particular is that we realize that smokers and ex-smokers possess a distinct methylation pattern, so we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, which suggests we have to recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only hardly ever) smoked. And also this is proving challenging for two reasons. Firstly, as borne out by the recent research, it’s very rare for individuals who’ve never smoked cigarettes to take up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to an electronic cigarette habit.
But additionally, an unexpected problem has become the unwillingness of some in the vaping community to aid us recruit. And they’re delay as a result of fears that whatever we find, the results will be utilized to paint a poor picture of vaping, and vapers, by individuals with an agenda to push. I don’t desire to downplay the extreme helpfulness of plenty of people in the vaping community in assisting us to recruit – thank you, you know who you are. Having Said That I was disheartened to hear that for some, the misinformation and scaremongering around vaping has reached the stage where they’re opting out of the research entirely. And after talking to people directly relating to this, it’s difficult to criticize their reasoning. We have now also found that several e-cigarette retailers were immune to putting up posters aiming cwctdr recruit people who’d never smoked, because they didn’t desire to be seen to be promoting e-cigarette use in people who’d never smoked, which is again completely understandable and must be applauded.
So what can perform relating to this? I hope that as more research is conducted, so we get clearer info on 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 take part in research so that we can fully explore the chance of these units, specifically those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they might be crucial to helping us understand the impact of vaping, in comparison with smoking.