Smokers wondering if they should switch, vapers seeking reassurance they’ve made the right choice, parents wanting to be educated and the public at large will probably go to the world’s leading internet search engine. But are the results it throws up something to rely on?
For our challenge, we used a private browser window and fired up a VPN service to hide us away in London. We did this in an attempt to provide as fair a result as possible, distanced from the computer’s search history.
“Is vaping safe?”
The top return gave us “Quit Smoking” by the National Health Service. Given that the NHS has produced its advice from an extensive research review by Public Health England, something that is repeated annually to cover all of the latest relevant studies, we can be reasonably confident that the information given from this result is as good as you are going to get from the internet.
The NHS says, “E-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking cigarettes and can help you quit” and links to its page on how to use them for smoking cessation [see more].
It’s not perfect, for example; the section on vape devices posing a fire risk misses out the important information that the London Fire Brigade frequently points out home fires are primarily caused by cigarettes and they have witnessed a dramatic decline in incidents because of the UK’s shift from smoking to vaping.
The second response leads us to “Heart Matters” by the British Heart Foundation [see more]. Sagely pointing out, “The BHF would not advise non-smokers to start vaping,” the organisation cites actual studies to evidence its support of vaping – one of which prompts the BHF’s Professor Jeremy Pearson to say: “This study suggests that vaping may be less harmful to your blood vessels than smoking cigarettes.”
Things change when we look at the third result: “5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know” by Hopkins Medical [see more].
The organisation has “medical” in the title and the article is written by a doctor – Michael Joseph Blaha. Surely this has to be relaying facts too? Unfortunately not.
While he accepts that vaping does not contain the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke, he quickly moves on to state there has been, “an outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping”.
The outbreak was confined to a group of people using illegal, black-market cannabis liquid containing a substance called Vitamin-E Acetate. This additive is not found in any e-liquid – and is specifically banned from e-liquids in the United Kingdom and Europe.
People unaware of the intricacies of the raging argument between experts in the vape debate will not know that the outbreak is frequently used as a disingenuous point by people ideologically opposed to vaping – people who believe that nobody should use nicotine.
These people also claim, as Blaha does, that vaping is linked to heart and lung problems. The flaw in this argument is threefold:
- Vaping has been about as a mainstream product since 2009. There has not been a single documented and validated incident of a vaper having to go to the hospital to be treated for heart or lung problems as a result of vaping.
- The research attempting to prove there is a link almost all comes from America and have a myriad of problems due to the statistical analysis or the brutal treatment of rodents.
- It glosses over the fact that the leading study by a man called Stanton Glantz was eventually retracted a year after publishing. It made the laughable claim that vaping caused heart attacks in patients up to ten years before they started vaping.
Blaha says vaping is as addictive, independent evidence from the UK says he is utterly wrong. He says vaping is not the best quit tool, yet millions of vapers would disagree – and the world’s best gold-standard study found it works three times better than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. He adds that it is causing a teen epidemic even though the latest figures from America show this isn’t the case and a study from University College London confirms the fact.
America has a historical problem with states going into debt because they wasted their settlements from the tobacco industry. This, combined with the way American universities hunt research funding, means that a lot of information from the USA is very suspect.
How is anybody to know the truth? Always look at a mix of sources to take in multiple viewpoints. Also, it comes down to relying on trusted sources of information.
The following organisations are highly recommended:
- Public Health England
- The NHS
- Royal College of Physicians
- Royal College of GPs
- Royal College of Nursing
- Cancer Research UK
- British Heart Foundation
- Action on Smoking and Health
- Royal Society for Public Health
- Cochrane Review