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article imageDoubts cast over e-cigarette research

By Tim Sandle     Sep 3, 2015 in Health
London - Public Health England recently stated that e-cigarettes are safe. However, according to The Lancet, the report relied on evidence provided by scientists funded by the vaping industry.
Many media outlets, including Digital Journal, reported that Public Health England had issued a statement, based on research, where e-cigarettes were found to be 20 times less harmful than smoking tobacco.
The Public health England report went onto explain that it was preferable for traditional tobacco smokers to switch to e-cigarettes and that e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than traditional tobacco products. Additionally, there was a recommendation that e-cigarettes be prescribed by the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS). The report was welcomed by the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECTIA), the trade association of e-cigarette manufacturers.
However, according to the medical journal The Lancet, the Public Health England report was based on data compiled in 2014. This study was allegedly carried out by scientists who were in receipt of payments from e-cigarette companies.
According to The Lancet, three of the 11 authors of the study were paid by the e-cigarette industry. The journal that published the research — European Addiction Research — carried a disclaimer about a “potential conflict of interest.” However, this warning, The Daily Telegraph reports, was not reproduced in the Public Health England dossier.
The authors of The Lancet article are strong in their criticism. Here they say the Public Health England report has based its “major conclusion” on an “extraordinarily flimsy foundation.” The Lancet goes as far as to accuse Public Health England, which is a U.K. government agency, of not fully delivering on its remit to protect public health.
Those who are not in favor of e-cigarettes, such as The World Health Organization, argue that the flavors used in e-cigarettes can potentially cause respiratory problems or affect the immune system. Others are concerned that heavy promotion of vaping encourages people, especially young people, to take up smoking e-cigarettes when they would not necessarily have taken up smoking traditional tobacco products.
The e-cigarette health debate, which has strong advocates on both sides, seems set to run for some time yet. The primary obstacle to a resolution appears to be a lack of medical study data into the longer term effects of vaping.
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