WHO jumps the shark on vaping cancer risks

The World Health Organization has long had a reputation for bias against tobacco harm reduction, but tobacco experts were left stunned this week when the organisation’s latest report on global smoking made the wild claim that vapour products don’t reduce the risk of cancer compared to smoking.

There’s now a large body of research on the health impact of vaping, and it’s overwhelmingly positive. E-cigarettes have now been on the market for close to 15 years, and if they posed any major health risks we should be seeing signs of that by now. That’s not what researchers are finding. Major reviews of the literature find that if a smoker switches to vaping they eliminate at least 95% of the health risk.

Basic toxicology tells us that reducing exposure to carcinogens reduces the risk of cancer. Almost none of the carcinogens present in cigarette smoke exist in e-cigarette vapour, and any that remain are found at far lower – usually trace – levels. Faced with this well-established reality, any claim that vaping doesn’t lower cancer risks needs to be backed up by some very convincing new evidence, and the WHO hasn’t provided any.

The report also claims that teen vaping increases the chance of smoking later. This is an embarrassingly common mistake that mixes up correlation and causation. It’s like arguing that drinking beer makes you more likely to drink vodka later. It doesn’t; it’s simply that beer drinkers will probably like other alcoholic drinks too.

Researchers claim vaping risks relapse to cigs – but it’s not that simple

A new study by US researchers claims to have found that ex-smokers who vape are more likely to relapse and pick up a cigarette again. According to lead author Ramchandar Gomajee, “even if smokers may succeed in stopping smoking with the aid of electronic cigarettes, they still need to be monitored by doctors and health professionals to prevent a relapse in the long term.”

What Gomajee didn’t mention when he ran to the media is that increased risk of relapse was only visible in smokers who quit several years ago. For smokers who quit in or after 2013 there was a lower risk of relapse – something they credit to modern e-cigarettes being much more effective as cigarette substitutes. Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, agreed with this assessment.

While the media predictably focused on the (slightly) increased risk of relapse among those who use older closed-system devices, the real news from Gomajee’s research was that smokers who began vaping – the dreaded “dual users” – smoked less per day, and were 50% more likely to quit, than smokers who didn’t.

Malaysia plans crackdown on vaping and candy

Confusion seems to be running wild in Malaysia, with both e-cigarettes and a popular brand of sugary snack sending anti-smokers into a flat spin. The biggest moral panic at the moment is over “ghost smoke” candy, which consists of fruit-flavoured sugar powder packed into edible straws. Blowing through the straw produces a cloud of powder which, from a distance in poor lighting, looks slightly like cigarette smoke.

In the minds of Malaysian tobacco controllers this slight resemblance is a threat to the youth of the country, who are at risk of being persuaded to start smoking after seeing puffs of sugary dust.

Inevitably, vaping has been dragged into the debate. Several politicians and heath activists are calling for new laws to restrict both “ghost smoke” and e-liquid, on the grounds that both could potentially cause a gateway effect to smoking. Meanwhile there continues to be no evidence of any such effect in the real world.

Fake vape gear ring busted in Long Island

Police in Nassau County, Long Island, have arrested three men on suspicion of supplying counterfeit vapour products. Asgar Ali and his sons, Moosa and Zar Ali, were caught in possession of more than 10,000 counterfeit items, including e-cigarettes, refill cartridges and mods. The value of the fake goods is estimated at around $1.5 million.

As well as shutting down the counterfeit operation, at least one local official has dramatically exposed their own stupidity. Discussing vaping, county executive Laura Curran said, “One puff equals one cigarette, think about that.”