New Research Again Fails to Show Difference Between Vaping and Smoking

I’ve recently come across this article from The Verge (which has had a long history of being anti-vapor) that detailed new research coming out of JAMA which shows toxicants being inhaled from vapor devices. Such toxicants include “tobacco-specific nitrosamines, volatile organic compounds, and metals compared”. I’ve since read through the research to make sure it wasn’t biased in anyway, and to see what types of testing methods were included, and to my pleasant (un)surprise, of course there seems to be a heavy bias involved. In fact, the entire study seems kind of useless.

The Study

Now one thing I was pleased to see was the size of the study. 5105 participants were involved. While this isn’t a massive study, this is a good sized sample. But this comes with a caveat that you’ll read below. Unfortunately, the good of the study stops there, and upon further investigation it seems the study left out a ton of key details.

So the study rested upon analyzing the urine of the participants. Over a period of time, participants would have their urine screened for nicotine specific nitrosamines, heavy metal content, as well as other volatile compounds. The biggest issue with the study, that’s even stated by the researchers themselves, is that there is absolutely no mention of the type of e-cigarettes used in the study.

First, questionnaire data at Wave 1 did not differentiate between use of first-, second-, third-, or later-generation e-cigarette devices by participants. These factors have been demonstrated to be important in differential exposure to nicotine and toxicants among e-cigarette users in other studies.

I’m not exactly sure why that data would be left out, but I can definitely take a few guesses. What this means to me, is there is a blatant disregard for how these products SHOULD be used, and thus, the entire basis of the testing flawed. We don’t even know what type of e-liquid was used. We already know that “burning” the e-cigarette produces smoke. That smoke obviously comes with many toxicants, that of course would be similar to burning tobacco. And because the study has no control of how the vapor was consumed, then the study is completely variable. To me, it’s astonishing that time after time, researchers continue to implement testing without understanding how the products are used and how they should be used.


Another issue with the testing is how they looked at dual users. Again, they admit these limitations in the study itself, yet for some reason, the data is still there, ready to be misused like how it was in The Verge. Here’s another quote from the limitations

Readers should interpret several of the estimates presented here with caution, particularly those from exploratory analyses among dual users. For example, the distributions of biomarkers among certain groups of dual users (eg, some-days e-cigarette/some-days cigarette smokers) may be a better indicator of the product last used, which may or may not be e-cigarettes. Biomarker estimates should also be interpreted in the context of compound half-lives listed in eTable 1 in the Supplement. For instance, elevated cadmium concentrations in e-cigarette users could be remnants from prior combusted cigarette use, given the metal’s long half-life and the fact that 93% of exclusive e-cigarette users in our sample are former cigarette smokers.

This spells it all out. If several of the estimates presented should be proceeded with caution, then why even point out the data? There’s just no control. Now here’s the kicker that will help you understand exactly what I’m getting at…

Given the small number of e-cigarette–only users who never used cigarettes (n = 18), we cannot investigate how smoking history may influence resulting concentrations of biomarkers with longer half-lives. However, most biomarkers examined have a short half-life (mean, 1.5-10 hours).13 In addition, some biomarkers (eg, arsenic) lack sensitivity in identifying exposure to tobacco-related constituents; such biomarkers may come from other sources, such as diet or environmental pollution

Only 18 participants, of the 5105 studied, were exclusive e-cigarette users who had never smoked. So much of the remaining heavy metals, may have been left over from years of smoking. Not too mention, some biomarkers may have no basis on either smoking or ecigs, and may be present due food or pollution. I’m not exactly sure what can be derived from this study, other than that vaping can present heavy metals and other toxicants…but it also might not. In fact, it seems exclusive vapers seem to have much similar levels to never smokers, than they do with exclusive smokers. So, you’ve just wasted your time reading this study.


One Comment

  1. I agree, the science is not as tight as it could be but the limitations of the study are are defined, for me this study helps support the evidence for the the use of Ecigg as a tabbaco harm reduction method. in real world scenarios in which the current ecigg user was a former combustible smoker.
    The sample size of the groups reported were robust – e cigarette-only smokers (n = 2411), e-cigarette–only users (n = 247), dual users (n = 792), and never users of any tobacco products (n = 1655). granted the sample size of ecigg only current users is a small sample size, but appropriate for the statistical analysis they used. . The ecigg only group is defined as users who were former established smokers (had smoked 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and do not currently smoke) quit smoking a mean (SD) of 3.5 (9.0) years before sample collection, and they previously smoked a mean of 19.0 cigarettes per day (CPD) (95% CI, 16.9-21.1) > which to me seems pretty representative of most current ecigg users and that is what you want in a study design, a representative sample of ecigg users, which helps support generalization of the findings. As most ecigg users are former combustible cig users. ( Additionally the consumption of cigarettes was not statistically different between .cigarette only users and dual users.) My take away was that former smokers that are currently using e – ciggs had statistically lower VOC excreted then current cigarette uses. Which supports ecigg use as a tobacco harm reduction method .

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