Titled, “Analysis of common methodological flaws in the highest cited e-cigarette epidemiology research,” the review asked what the most common flaws in e-cigarette research are and how to prevent them. Sadly, the findings indicated a plethora of fatal flaws in these studies, which the researchers identified, categorized, and accurately analyzed.
“Many studies lacked a clear hypothesis statement: to the extent that a hypothesis could be inferred, the methods were not tailored to address the question of interest. Moreover, main outcome measures were poorly identified, and data analysis was further complicated by failure to control for confounding factors,” read the study Abstract.
The flaws were particularly evident with regards to the Gateway Theory. “The body of literature on “gateway” theory for the initiation of smoking was particularly unreliable. Overall, the results and discussion contained numerous unreliable assertions due to poor methods, including data collection that lacked relevance, and assertions that were unfounded. Many researchers claimed to find a causal association while not supporting such findings with meaningful data: the discussions and conclusions of such studies were, therefore, misleading.”
Inaccurate studies are making their way into reputable journals
A press release by the review authors added that sadly, the most influential research on e-cigarette is “of inadequate quality and insufficient to guide public health decision and they offer practical recommendation for improving research in this field.”
“Most of the included studies utilized inappropriate study design and did not address the research question that they set out to answer. In our paper we offer practical recommendations that can massively improve the quality and rigor future research in the field of tobacco harm reduction,” explains Dr. Hajat.
While Prof. Polosa said he is shocked that such inaccurate studies would make it into reputable journals. “Systematic reiteration of the same errors that result in uninformative science is the new pandemic! I’m astounded that such low-quality studies have made it through editorial review in prestigious scientific journals. The credibility of tobacco control scientists and their research is on the line.”