At the E-cigarette summit held in London in November 2017, our scientific and regulatory experts attended interesting debates about vaping. We “brought home” stimulating ideas that were sources of inspiration for some considerations.
One of the topics, very current not only for the operators of the sector, concerns the relationship between electronic smoking, scientific world and public opinion.
The effects of vaping are the subject of enormous interest in public opinion, and the discussion about electronic smoking inflames the minds.
In the media of all levels and sectors, there are frequently titles sometime in favor and sometime against vaping, where scientific studies and expert opinions are quoted to support both views. Often, however, the respected sources are considered only in a partial way, putting together messages that in their entirety are actually different.
This implies that scientific studies on the topic are often disseminated in an approximate and sometimes distorted way.
Moreover this situation is exacerbated by the fact that, among the several reliable analyzes, the presence of the so called ‘bad science’, as those uncertain studies are defined, contaminate their importance and can lead public opinion to an altered perception of risks and benefits of vaping products.
We believe that it is not about good or bad science, but only about the lack of knowledge in a new world that should be investigated with new and well defined procedures.
In recent and important scientific reviews the results of dozens of scientific works are collected, analyzed and compared trying to provide an overall picture of the feedback of the scientific community.
The effect of their reading is surprising and disheartening: for every single aspect investigated by the scientific community there are both works that expose evidence in favor of the electronic cigarette and others that underline its dangerousness.
How is it possible that there are such conflicting data and that the scientific community is so divided on this theme?
Surely it is not about ‘bad faith’ or improvisation, but there are two important reasons that make the correct approach to vaping studies difficult:
1) The lack of standards.
It seems increasingly clear that the toxicity of an aerosol has a multifactorial cause that involves many factors including: amount of the tested liquid, composition of the liquid, vaping conditions (puff protocol, cigarette model, position and cigarette filling, value resistance, battery charge, wetting material, etc.) just to name a few.
To date, there is no reference standard for the conditions under which the tests should be performed; each research group can therefore apply different conditions and consequently achieve very different results in apparently similar studies.
2) The poor knowledge of the product by the scientific community.
The lack of knowledge of vaping products and their methods of use, together with the lack of reference standards, mean that tests are sometimes carried out under improbable conditions.
For example, some jobs have shown quantities of toxic aldehydes in aerosols even higher than traditional cigarettes. It was then discovered that these values were observed by dry puff, vaping conditions not found in reality but that a machine does not refuse to inhale.
We believe that dealing with these aspects can overcome the problem of the presence of ‘bad science’ and therefore lay the basis for ensuring that the scientific community is unanimous in investigating a new and delicate world such as vaping.