A team from In Silico Science, a project to train researchers on innovative methods for systematic reviews, has found that smokers do not increase heart disease risk when they switch to vaping. The finding is important as a number of flawed but widely shared American research papers have made the claim that risk is increased. One, now retracted by the publishing journal, is still cited as evidence by the World Health Organisation.
What was this piece of flawed anti-vape research?
Now retired anti-vaping activist Stanton Glantz was prolific in churning out negative studies about vaping. All of his work involved looking at data sets rather than people, and all of them were routinely attacked for being deeply flawed.
One, Electronic Cigarette Use and Myocardial Infarction Among Adults in the US Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health, was published by the Journal of the American Heart Association. In it, Glantz said he had proved that the use of an electronic cigarette could cause a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
The paper was used by the American Heart Association and the World Health Organisation as evidence that vaping is bad – Stanton Glantz outrageously went so far as to say that smokers would be better off continuing to smoke.
What was wrong with the flawed research??
Well, vaping was apparently so bad that it was causing people to have heart attacks when they were smoking – long before they’d ever heard of the word “e-cig”.
Consequently, Glantz lost access to the database he had used – as did everyone in his department who he worked with. But the damage was done and his paper still gets referenced to this day despite being retracted (the journal removes the publication from its list because of serious flaws even though it can still be seen online).
What did In Silico Science do?
The In Silico Science team, based at CoEHAR (the Centre of Excellence for the acceleration of Harm Reduction) in Italy, looked at similar heart research from 25 studies covering 1,810 participants.
What did the In Silico Science team find?
From their analysis of the papers, they said that almost two-thirds of teams claiming to find evidence of heart risks failed to demonstrate any evidence to support the statements.
They said there was no evidence of risk produced in heart rates, blood pressure readings or cardiovascular tests.
Furthermore, there was clear evidence of the benefits of swapping from smoking to vaping as smokers diagnosed with hypertension (a common problem with smoking) showed a reduction in their systolic blood pressure readings over the following twelve months after switching to vape product use.
Dr O’Leary, the lead author of the study said: “Our review provides a detailed and up-to-date body of data regarding the possible implications for human health that comes from e-cig substitution. Data from the review support the idea that the use of e-cigarettes led to no additional cardiovascular heart risk and smokers who choose to switch can benefit from this choice.”