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Surgeon General releases skewed vaping report

In a short-notice move on Thursday, the United States Surgeon General released a new report on the alleged public health risks of electronic cigarettes. According to Surgeon General Murthy himself, this is the first federal government review on the subject and has involved two years of work.

Unfortunately that two years seems to have been completely focused on grossly inflated risks to children and teenagers, while the actual evidence shows the overwhelming majority of US vapers are adults – and almost all are current or former smokers. The report insists on calling e-cigarettes a tobacco product, which sets the tone – this is a tactic exclusively used by hostile bureaucrats. It goes on to label vaping by youth a public health concern, with no attempt made to explore the benefits of the technology.

As well as the confusion between regular and ever use that characterises US research, the report also contains several misleading phrases that appear to be deliberate. It claims that as well as flavouring and nicotine, e-liquid contains “other additives” – this is almost never the case.

Murthy also recommends a number of policies, which unsurprisingly tie in closely with recent federal and state anti-vaping laws. Among them are adding vapour products to smoke-free laws, restricting advertising and pushing ahead with the FDA’s controversial Deeming Regulations. With the US public already badly informed about the relative risks of vaping and smoking, this report is likely to do huge damage to public health.

“10 puffs on an e-cig can lead to heart disease” – Shock new Swedish claim

Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute has published an alarming new study which says just ten puffs on an electronic cigarette can “start the heart disease ball rolling”. The report, which was picked up by the tabloid Daily Mail, claims to have seen the same effects on circulation in vapers as in smokers – but it’s already attracted severe criticism.

It’s already well known that vaping causes stiffness in blood vessels – but this is a short-term response caused by nicotine. Exactly the same response is found in people who use any stimulant, as well as those who exercise. Smoking, however, causes long-term plaque build-up in arteries, and it’s this – not short-term responses – that causes heart disease. The Karolinska researchers seem to have conflated two completely different conditions.

Another concern is the extremely small scale of the study; researchers worked with just sixteen people, all of them occasional smokers, and each did a single session of ten puffs on an e-cigarette. Any statistics from a study this limited are basically just statistical noise and it would be nothing short of reckless to draw any conclusions from it, but that hasn’t stopped the Daily Mail.

Karolinska is among the world’s top 10 medical universities but has been hit by controversy in recent years, including allegations of awarding fellowships in exchange for donations.

PHE tells APPG educating councils on vaping “a priority”

Speaking at the All Party Parliamentary Group on e-cigarettes on Tuesday, senior Public Health England official Kevin Fenton stated that educating local councils about vapour products is a priority for the agency. Recent Freedom of Information requests which revealed that only one council in the UK had a sensible vaping policy in place, so PHE’s intervention is long overdue.

Following Fenton’s comments, Professor Peter Hajek discussed the methods used by many public health groups to place alarmist fallacies about vapour products in the media. In a hard-hitting talk he labelled much public health activity as “dirty tricks”.

Most controversially, the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) asked the APPG for strict enforcement of the new TPD rules to ensure that companies who comply aren’t at a disadvantage. This issue has divided advocates; some hope for lax enforcement, while others believe applying the law rigorously will fuel demands for it to be scrapped.

Vape exempted from US public housing smoking ban

Last week the US government announced a ban on smoking in all publicly-owned housing, which will be implemented by 2019 and impacts on 940,00 homes across the United States. It’s now emerged that, despite earlier fears, vapour products are not included in the new prohibition – so vapers will be able to keep using their devices in government housing.

Housing and Urban Development, who manage public accommodation in the USA, announced that the data “lacks clear consensus”, which disregards the most up to date research from the UK and other European countries but makes a refreshing change from most of Washington’s absolutist language. As the draconian smoking ban extends 25 feet outside any public housing unit, many of America’s least well off vapers have had a lucky escape.

  • Muff Meringue

    The Karolinska study ended up testing only 14 people: “Baseline cotinine was measured in all study participants. Despite instructions to all participants regarding absences of nicotine prior to study, two participants showed elevated levels of cotinine (100 ng/mL and 4.8 ng/mL). Both participants were excluded from further analysis. Thus, 14 participants were analyzed (5 females, 9 males, mean age 28.4 years).”

  • Muff Meringue

    Karolinska: They also didn’t bother to discuss the FeNO results, which showed no significant signs of respiratory inflammation. They also glossed over the fact that microparticle (MV/MP) levels only were only slightly elevated for only one specific type of MV, unlike their previous smoking study which showed an acute release of all types of MV.