When you read news articles about e-cigarettes there is one nearly universal thing they all have in common. Odds are at some point, it will be mentioned that “we just don’t know” if e-cigarettes are harmful, that there’s not enough studies about e-cigarettes to determine if they are safe. So, why aren’t there more e-cigarette studies?
See, that’s the thing. There are e-cigarette studies. Quite a few of them actually. I ran a guest article on this site last year that highlighted the top 10 e-cigarette studies. And those were just studies at the time the author deemed most relevant to vapers. There were many studies that were left out, and others that have been published since then.
Heck, there’s even a study commissioned by CASAA that evaluated all the other published studies to determine if there is any danger in e-cigarette vapor. Spoiler: no!
You want studies about how e-cigarettes compare to traditional stop-smoking treatments? How about what’s actually in the e-liquid? That was even answered by the FDA’s infamous 2009 study which the agency then turned around and exaggerated.
There’s pretty much a study for every sort of situation you can think about. Here’s a list to get you started. There are a couple studies that are still lacking, most notably long-term studies. e-Cigarettes simply haven’t been around long enough to see what happens to people after vaping for 10 or 20 years. There’s also some question about potential issues with some flavorings. There’s currently a study gathering crowd-sourced funding to study exactly that.
Ok, so what’s with the pretty news people saying there’s no studies?
There’s likely a couple of possibilities going on here. First, either the reporters or the so-called experts featured in the stories are lazy. It’s the echo chamber effect. So many news stories say there’s no research, they just keep repeating each other even though the facts on the ground don’t reflect that assertion.
Similarly, it’s possible that whoever looked into the situation back in 2009 when the FDA study came out. Then they promptly committed that to memory and didn’t bother checking if anything new had been released since then.
The first two scenarios are probably likely, particularly when it comes to the media looking for a sensational story. However, it’s unlikely that excuse flies for the academic types.
After all, it’s their job to keep up on studies. I’m pretty sure they’re aware when a new study that’s directly in their wheelhouse gets published. When pressed about the existence of such studies, there tends to be some fault real or imagined with the studies.
At first the criticisms were that there was a lack of peer-reviewed studies. Once e-cigarette studies began getting submitted for peer review and subsequently published, the story changed. Now it was things like the studies were too small, or they were industry-sponsored and so on.
But mostly, it’s flat-out denials. However, if you look carefully the next time you see a quote from one of these prohibitionist types, take a look at what they really say. I bet you’ll find some of the weasel words I mentioned just before. Maybe there are no long-term studies, or no independent studies and so on. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one as it’s clearly someone trying to hide something?
Ok, but why is this happening?
[Tweet “It’s awful tempting to ignore that which does not agree with your position.”]
It comes down to either dogma or money depending on who you ask. Either some anti-smoking groups are so programmed to hate anything about smoking, they have no choice but to attack simulated smoking. The more cynical among us will point out many of these groups receive funding in some way or another by the major drug companies which produce nicotine replacement therapy. e-Cigarettes can really put a dent in that business.
Either way you go, the reasoning is pretty straight forward. Admitting the existence of evidence to the contrary weakens their own position. This holds particularly true when the counter-arguments generally do lack any sort of supporting scientific evidence.
Have you heard a prohibitionist say “we just don’t know if e-cigarettes will entice people to take up smoking” or “there are no large-scale studies which examine if certain flavors are only attractive to kids?”
Yet, those phrases are actually true. Gateway theories are pure conjecture, but they are held as if they are a given in any argument. Meanwhile the only things we don’t know are things that it turns out we totally do.
Quite simply, when you’re on the wrong side of the debate, it’s awful tempting to ignore that which does not agree with your position.