Last Updated on November 14, 2019 by

Electronic cigarettes – check the small print with medical research!

Over the last couple of weeks we have seen at least two medical research notes seemingly going against the general trend that electronic cigarettes are significantly less harmful than their tobacco counterparts. While those operating in the industry and those with a more regulatory/governmental role are all in favour of further long-term medical research, why do we always have to read the small print to get the full picture?

Bloomberg School research

The latest medical research data to hit the public domain has certainly caught the attention of both sides of the electronic cigarette argument. The Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School today released a very controversial report which has got the industry talking. In many ways it is the way in which these reports are handled by the mass media which dictates how they are received. Let us explain……………..

The latest report by the Bloomberg School suggests that the vapour created and inhaled with the modern-day vaping device could potentially harm lungs and make the user more susceptible to infection. Those in charge of the study confirmed that “our findings suggest that e-cigarettes are not neutral in terms of the effect on the lungs”. So what does the actual report suggest?

Free radicals

The theory of so-called “free radicals” focuses upon the idea that organisms age as cells accumulate “free radical” damage over time. A free radical is a single atom or molecule which can cause a chemical reaction which in this instance was deemed to weaken the immune system. The theory was tested using two sets of mice, one of which was exposed to average levels of electronic cigarette vapour over a two-week period while the others were the base set.

After the two-week period the scientists found that those exposed to electronic cigarette vapour were more likely to experience compromised immune responses to viruses and bacteria. The suggestion is that an inability to clear their lungs of the bacterial infection caused by electronic cigarette vapour impacted their overall immune system. On the face of it this seems to be something of a damning indictment of the modern-day electronic cigarette, but what happens if we dig a little deeper?

The small print is very enlightening!

While much has been made of the “fact” that electronic cigarette vapour contains these so called free radicals, in what kind of quantity are they produced? Well, if we are comparing electronic cigarettes to their tobacco cigarette counterparts, surely the levels must be similar to cause so much controversy within the mass media?

You will very quickly notice that not all of the press covering this particular research programme mention the levels of free radicals present. If you were to read the whole report you will see that the levels created by electronic cigarette vapour are just 1% of those created by tobacco cigarette smoke. Indeed these are also elements present in the polluted air that we all encounter on a daily basis. The headline suggests we are comparing like-for-like levels, from electronic cigarette vapour and tobacco smoke, when in reality electronic cigarettes create a miniscule level of free radicals compared to their tobacco counterparts. Are we really seeing a balanced reporting environment for electronic cigarettes?

Mark Benson

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