Building Evidence

Just for once, I’m going to be taking a break from my usual style of posts and am going to try and put my science type hat on.

Disclaimer: I am not a scientist of any type, so if there are any mistakes in my interpretations below, do feel free to correct me. Politely of course!

There have been a few studies published recently that are showing that the use of electronic cigarettes are far less harmful than traditional cigarettes. But we already know this I hear you say. Yes, we do know this. Rather than being dismissed as “anecdotes” by certain figures, the scientific fact is building and it is on our side, which of course leaves those against us looking all the more foolish. Unfortunately, it isn’t stopping them. Yet.

There is emerging evidence that vaping may actually reverse some of the harm in the lungs. This is, in short, good news. This study clearly mentions that studying actual users would give the greatest benefit, but is actually a complex, if not prohibitive option. Instead the author expands on the less challenging option of in vitro (effectively, cell cultures and small scale tests on tissue samples), whilst he also maintains that this approach cannot be directly applied to humans in vivo.

Basically, conducting the tests on small samples and cultures may lead to one conclusion, but it could effectively be null and void in “real life” terms (in vivo).

Overall, despite the inconsistent and contradictory results, most acute in vitro studies are simply suggestive of non-specific irritant effects from e-vapor exposure. This is consistent with findings from internet surveys and clinical trials reporting transient throat irritation, dry cough, and other symptoms of respiratory irritation in some smokers when switching to ECs

This caught my eye, from the related studies there are inconsistent and often contradictory results which is hardly surprising given the varying methodologies used. The author is suggesting that the results only hint at non-specific irritant effects of vaping. In other words, they don’t really know but they have a few ideas. However, online surveys and other clinical trials do provide more consistent information where users report dry throats, coughs and other respiratory symptoms, specifically when smokers switch to vaping. Again, most of this we already knew as we’ve all either heard of or experienced some minor symptoms shortly after “the switch”. Some of us haven’t experienced any at all (lucky you!).

Symptoms of irritation may occur in EC users hypersensitive to propylene glycol present in the e-vapor, but the possibility of unknown contaminants or byproducts contained in the e-vapor causing similar irritant effects cannot be discounted. Likewise, a prompt defensive response against irritants from e-vapor inhalation is the most likely cause for the immediate physiologic changes detected with highly sensitive respiratory functional tests as reported by Vardavas et al. The question of whether such an irritation could translate into clinically meaningful lung disease remains unanswered, and there certainly is no evidence to date to suggest that there are any clinically significant adverse lung effects, at least acutely.

There isn’t anything really new here other than confirmation that some vapers may be sensitive to PG - which we already knew. However, the author does expand on this by mentioning the “possibility of unknown contaminants or byproducts” read that as particulates which our bestest friend Frampton Stantz insists is present in ALL vapour. By the way, there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence of this statement.

The other tidbit from that quote, is that there is no evidence to suggest that there are any clinically significant adverse lung effects. In laymans terms, there is minimal risk that vaping poses any harm to the lungs. Again, this is something that we already knew but it’s always nice when factual, and compelling evidence supports us isn’t it?

From a non-scientific standpoint, this study is simply confirmation of what we all knew already. True, long-term impact is still unknown but projections from studies like this one would indicate that any risks in the long term may indeed be insignificant.

On a final note:

the emerging evidence that EC use can reverse harm from tobacco smoking should be taken into consideration by regulatory authorities seeking to adopt proportional measures

All good, I think.