Myth & Magic : The Eternal Debate

I’m going to begin this one by posting up a few tweets from various users.

fitPrescription

If you like, the article this one refers to is here feel free to have a read, I’ll wait :-)

Flahault1

Just so you know, Antoine Flahault is a respected Professor in Biostatistics and neither smokes or vapes, but is heavily vested in the truth.

I’m going to gloss over the tweets regarding Philly, because that little story is about money which is a whole different rant for another day ;-)

So lets begin with the first tweet, the article that it refers to is pretty poor as it claims (without evidence) that:

I mentioned in last week’s article that electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are gaining in popularity, especially among our young people. It’s an exploding, billion-dollar industry — on track to outsell tobacco products within a decade.

Particularly among “our young people”.  To be fair, there are a larger number of younger vapers (source Smoking in England):

SIE_Ages

Bear in mind that the above chart features all types of e-cig, and does contain “dual users”…

So you could say her point about it being popular with the young people is relatively accurate.  However, she goes on to say:

“Vaping” is the term used with e-cigarettes. I am sure you have seen “vape” shops opening up all around your city. No wonder they are cashing in on this new trend, perhaps a high tech way to get young people addicted to nicotine.

Reading between the lines there it is almost as if she is suggesting that Big Vapour is following the trend that Big Tobacco did, luring the younger generation to make money.  Which is simply not true.  There has been plenty of evidence regarding the “Gateway effect” and there is simply no truth in it.

In general terms, the “younger generation” are more likely to switch to vaping as it is more likely that they are going to be involved in social media (Twitter & Facebook primarily) where vaping is heavily discussed.  Am I saying that older people can’t use Social Media? Absolutely not, just that they are less likely to spend as much time searching around as the younger folk.

But I digress a little from my point.  The article makes several claims (based on information from the Tennessee DoH):

  1. There is inadequate scientific information about the effects of using e-cigarettes to assure the public about the impact to safety and health. There are no federal regulations of manufactures as well.
  2. Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical which can be toxic. It can affect the nervous and circulatory systems.
  3. With no regulation on electronic nicotine delivery systems, consumers are cautioned they may be exposed to varying levels of nicotine and other chemicals, and contaminants in these products.
  4. Emissions contain nicotine and other chemicals such as formaldehyde, propylene glycol, acetaldehyde, acrolein and tobacco nitrosamines.
  5. Electronic cigarettes have not been adequately tested as tobacco cessation devices. Until Food and Drug Administration approval is given, the Tennessee Health Department-approved nicotine replacement therapy products, which contain controlled doses of nicotine, are recommended for those wanting to use them for tobacco cessation efforts.
  6. Parents should not allow children to play with electronic cigarettes or similar devices. They contain batteries and liquid chemicals which if swallowed, could cause serious health complications.
  7. Parents should be aware electronic cigarettes nicotine delivery devices are available in a variety of flavors that may be attractive to children such as bubble gum, strawberry, chocolate, mint and others.
  8. Best current evidence is that most adolescents who use e-cigarettes also smoke traditional cigarettes. Because many adults are also dual users, there are significant unknowns about the cumulative health impact on individuals of any age.
  9. Pregnant women should avoid using these devices and children should not be exposed to them. The nicotine can impact fetal development affecting the brain, nerves and circulatory systems. Pregnant women should know exposure to nicotine in conventional or e-cigarettes may cause miscarriage, low birth weight, circulatory problems in the baby as well as heart rate and breathing problems. It can also contribute to sudden infant death syndrome.

Do I disagree with these?  Yes I do disagree with some of these. Points 2 & 3 especially.  Point 4 is also based in some fact, but it is distorted to my mind.  Points 5 through 9 are pretty much just common sense.

So, I asked for clarification on her sources:

fitPrescript1

Its always amusing to me that they respond with little or no information for their claims.  I say amusing as it bothers me that these claims are being made, but there is absolutely no point in getting annoyed and “going off on one” (read Prof Ashton ;-) )

So far in my attempts to disperse the myths that are being propagated through social media I’ve only had one “challenge” (and I’ll use that phrase very loosely!).  I refer to the Flahault tweet (you can read the entire status here), in which @KCan calls me a “lobbyist”.  Oh boy.

The definition of a “Lobbyist” states that it is an act of decision altering (paraphrased from here ) by individuals, organisations etc.  I felt insulted to be honest.  I prefer to think of myself as an advocate.

@KCan then decided to quote some actual sources, both of which I’d seen before the first of which had used methodologies which weren’t validated – in research non-validated methods cannot provide suitable results to be used as a basis for evidential fact.  The second report came from Prof. Glantz who has been widely regarded as the most debunked, mostly because of how he performs his research:

Glantz

So if he doesn’t know if the answer will make a difference he doesn’t bother doing the research – which you can read as “if it doesn’t support my theory, we don’t bother”.

But again, I digress (I’m good at doing that ;-) )

A few twitter users tried to point @KCan in the direction of some actual evidence that made her point irrelevant – mainly referring to Clive Bates and Dr K Farsalinos

Needless to say, @KCan went very quiet after that – strange that!

The moral of this little story, if you are going to make claims make sure that your sources are accurate and truthful and not just in line with your own views.