British experts on smoking and vaping have criticised research about vaping that claimed it could be worse for the heart than smoking, declaring it to be a poor piece of research that was essentially comparing apples with oranges.
For years now the NHS has been saying that using a liquid vape is a healthier option than lighting up a cigarette, for which reason it has recommended vaping as a means of stopping smoking.
The NHS page on this topic begins by stating: ”There’s some confusion and misleading information about vaping, which can make it difficult to work out what’s true or not.”
Alas, it seems such “confusion and misleading information” has not been reduced by the latest headlines, but rather increased.
It all centres on the results of a study carried out by the University of Wisconsin, based on blood pressure tests on people who had just vaped or smoked a cigarette 15 minutes earlier, along with an abstaining control group. This was followed by a stress test 90 minutes after the act of smoking or vaping.
The conclusion was that “worrisome changes” in heart function and blood pressure could be seen in both vapers and smokers alike. That alone would suggest vaping is no healthier an option, but the research went further and argued vaping might actually be worse, as those in the survey who used vapes had done so for less time on average than the smokers in the survey had been lighting up.
Study lead Dr Michael Tattersall said: “These results suggest worse risk factors for cardiovascular disease immediately after vaping or smoking.” The findings will now be presented to a conference of the American Heart Association.
However, any new scientific research on any topic needs to undergo ‘peer review’ to establish if it is sound and can be accepted as being supported by the evidence. In particular, the methodology – the way the research was carried out – needs to be appropriate. On this point, the study has come in for criticism by UK experts, the I reports.
Labelling the Wisonsin study “irresponsible”, Professor Peter Hajek from the Wolfson Institute of Population Health at Queen Mary University of London commented: “Like a number of such previous reports, the heart rate section only notes a known short-term effect of nicotine accompanying all types of stimulation.”
Importantly, he added: “The same effect occurs when you watch a thriller or a football game or take an exam. Drinking a cup of coffee actually produces a larger reaction of much longer duration.”
Senior Lecturer in Tobacco Harm Reduction at King’s College London Dr Debbie Robson, one of the authors of a major report highlighting the advantages of vaping, said: “Exposure to carcinogens and other toxins is dramatically lower in people who vape than in smokers. “
Responding to the criticisms, Dr Tattersall said the study did not set out to “define which method of nicotine consumption is a riskier proposition”. He also urged the British critics to “read our entire paper”, claiming they were “passing judgement” on the abstract or summary alone.
That defence may not dissuade critics of the study’s methodology, but even if the benefit of the doubt is given to it, Dr Tattersall’s words suggest the scary, vape-sceptic headlines are not justified anyway.