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Flawed Study Concludes Vaping Is Not Much Better Than Smoking for Vascular System

A so-called “major new analysis” of data from a range of studies on smoking, vaping and waterpipe smoking concluded that all three are very dangerous for the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Another day, another negative article on electronic cigarettes. But there is something fishy about this new comprehensive review conducted by an international team of researchers led by Thomas Münzel, a cardiologist at University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany, and published in the European Heart Journal. After being picked up by some of the most popular media outlets in the world, including Mail Online and Metro.co.uk, the study was removed from the European Heart Journal website. The page currently returns a 404 error, and one has to wonder if that has to do with the criticism the research has received from scientists around the world…

In their study, Münzel and his team looked at available scientific literature on the effects of smoking tobacco, waterpipe smoking and e-cigarette use on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, compared to non-smoking. They concluded that none of the three analyzed nicotine delivery methods is harmless for human health, which was what the media focused on in their articles, but the study clearly showed that tobacco smoking was considerably more harmful than vaping.

Researchers looked at some of the most serious conditions associated with tobacco use and compared the effect of the three aforementioned nicotine delivery methods on each of them. For example, in the case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fourth leading cause of death in United States, data showed that tobacco cigarettes increased the risk of developing the disease eight-fold, while electronic cigarettes boosted the risk three-fold. That alone shows a drastic difference between smoking and vaping, but the authors themselves admit that their analysis may not be accurate at all.

As everyone knows, COPD is a chronic condition that develops over a long period of time, and since the vast majority of the e-cigarette users taken into account for this review were former smokers or dual users (still smoking cigarettes but also vaping), there is no way to asses whether the pulmonary disease was caused by past/current smoking or by electronic cigarette use.

“What we cannot say for certain, and the study does not provide further clarity on either, is how much of the effects seen in e-cigarette smokers are due to prior tobacco cigarette use,” Jacob George, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Dundee, who was not involved in this study, told Evening Express. “No study so far has accurately and absolutely quantified prior impact of tobacco cigarette smoking on vascular dysfunction in individual e-cigarette users as we know that most e-cigarette smokers are former users of tobacco cigarettes and a number are dual users also.”

“Disentangling this from the distinctive impact of e-cigarettes on vascular function is still required to fully understand the risks versus the benefits of e-cigarettes, which on a comparative basis contains significantly fewer than the 7,000 harmful chemicals present in every tobacco cigarette that is smoked,” Prof. George added.

This is a really crucial flaw of this so-called “major analysis”, because, for all we know, vaping may not even increase the risk of COPD, since there is no way to show that the evidenced damage was not caused by years of past smoking. Personally, I suspect the reason that the study was taken off of the European Heart Journal website is tied to this issue.

The study found that, compared to not smoking, tobacco smoking increased the risk of lung cancer by more than 13 times, but because the disease takes years to develop, researchers concluded that there was not enough evidence to assess the risk posed by electronic cigarettes.

When assessing the risk of developing cardiovascular problems, Thomas Münzel and his team determined that smoking cigarettes increased arterial stiffness – an important indicator of future heart problems – by 10 percent, while vaping increased it by 7 percent. Not a huge difference, but vaping seems like the less dangerous choice between the two.

“The WHO [World Health Organisation] also warns that although e-cigarettes appear to be less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, there is growing evidence that they also may cause side effects in the lungs, heart and blood vessels and that e-cigarette use may increase the risk of Covid-19 infection,” Thomas Münzel said in a news release from the European Heart Journal, which has also since been taken down from the website…

Oh, we all know what the WHO thinks about vaping, Mr. Münzel, don’t you worry about that, but the bottom line is that your study clearly shows that vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking. No one ever set out to prove that it was completely harmless to human health, but your findings show that it’s less dangerous that smoking in all examined areas.

Furthermore, the methodology used in this research has been criticized by several reputed public health and tobacco control experts, with some calling it sloppy and others describing the findings as questionable.

“This paper provides an unsystematic overview on evidence relating to the likely relative risks of nicotine use, and of questionable reliability: for example, that e-cigarette use increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by 194 per cent but COPD is a disease with a lead time of decades, so to attribute a risk directly to e-cigarettes – which have been widely used for less than a decade and are almost exclusively used by former smokers – is inappropriate,” Professor John Britton, consultant in respiratory medicine at the University of Nottingham, commented.

“It is important to note that the best evidence around vaping and blood vessel function is that in people who switch from smoking to vaping there is a substantial improvement in endothelial function,” Dr Nick Hopkinson, reader in respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, who was also not involved in the study, said. “No serious commentator claims that vaping is completely harmless, but the hazard compared to smoking is much lower.”

As Ute Mons, the Head of Cancer Prevention Unit at DKFZ (German Cancer Research Center), warned in a scathing analysis of recent research on electronic cigarettes, the quality of vaping studies has dropped drastically. Unfortunately, this so-called major analysis seems to only confirm Mons’ worries… Unfortunately, the media has already spread this scaremongering excuse of a study, so the harm has been done yet again.

Top Image: CDC/Unsplash

Middle Image: kalhh/Pixabay

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