The Centre of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR) has released a new study to expose the flaws that riddle the current study practices often used to condemn and create new policies against vaping and e-cigarettes. The team of researchers working under CoEHAR has determined that even studies that have been published in some of the most prominent medical journals are flawed in their methodology.
The results of the 24 study analysis were published officially on 24 March 2022. “The studies lacked a clear hypothesis, used inadequate methodology, failed to collect data relevant to the study objectives, and did not correct for obvious confounding factors,” said a statement from the organization.
Features of the study
These poorly-conducted studies are the source of many citations in statements on the health implications for vaping. These damning studies effectively reduce the potential for successful tobacco harm reduction (THR) strategies being implemented.
CoEHAR has also acknowledged that a surprising number of the studies that demonstrate these common pitfalls are from research institutions found in the US. Not only are these in large numbers, but they are typically those who receive funding from organizations that do not support THR. “One striking result of the review is that a large portion of the high-ranking papers came out of US-dominated research institutions whose funders are unsupportive of a tobacco harm reduction agenda,” the paper mentions in its conclusion.
This comes as no surprise for those paying attention to the current vaping landscape, where there is clear pushback from big tobacco companies. THR, if widely adopted, has the potential to cause massive losses for these companies globally.
How these studies have been getting it wrong
The researchers highlighted six main concerning aspects of the analyzed studies. For the sake of brevity, here are the summarized points:
- None of the analzyed studies proposed any kind of a clear hypothesis. In doing so, they do not propose the expected relationships – which are particularly complex in the case of casual association regarding smoking and nicotine behaviors.
- The exposure and result measurements of, “vaped at least once in the last 30 days and smoked everyday for the last month,” could be better defined for public and clinical health purposes
- The lack of precisely proposed causal claims leads to concerns as to whether the results truly support the primary hypothesis of interest in each study.
- The studies do not account for the additional pathways vaping create that lead to cessation of tobacco smoking. This causes a stock-flow problem shown in the studies.
- The studies did not consider causal pathways in their methodology.
- The use of conventional epidemiology is not an appropriate way to assess complicated causal questions, such as vaping. This method does not apply well to real-world science.
It is recommended for those interested to peruse the study discussion itself for a more in-depth analysis.
The study outlines several ways these studies should be improved before they can be used for policy making. The 10 recommendations are broken down into different research areas such as impact of vaping on smoking cessation/reduction, impact of vaping on smoking initiation, health implications, and general.
It is clear from CoEHAR’s standpoint that vaping and e-cigarettes need to be considered a part of the continuum of risk, seen as much safer than traditional smoking.
Riccardo Polosa, the founder of CoEHAR and professor of Internal Medicine of the University of Catania, expressed his dismay that these studies have made it into the current medical 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,” said Polosa. It is clear from his statement that the continued implementation of these errors has an egregiously detrimental effect on the results published.
CoEHAR is a research company based in Catania, Italy. They have been working on a number of significant projects focused on providing effective research based on THR, as well as the continuous study of the effects of smoking and vaping. Their mission is to provide meaningful reductions in the number of deaths and health issues as a result from smoking.
Both founders, Riccardo Polosa and Giovanni Li Volti, have made significant contributions to the field during their careers. Polosa has been noted to be a prolific author for e-cigarette usage and the leader of the most controlled trial globally on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for THR. Volti has received several awards for his research, both in Italy and internationally.
This background of anti-smoking advocacy provides relief from the previous studies that have been published, despite having close ties to big tobacco funding. Their work can be seen as a guiding beacon for those looking to understand the true benefits e-cigarettes and vaping can have on our global community.
Studies form the backbone behind decisions in policy making and allow for news outlets to spread information to the public. The issue with this is that the general public typically will not do further investigation into these studies, let alone be able to identify the issues that riddle them. Companies that are anti-vaping in their views are then free to create fear-mongering and spread misinformation to further bolster their agenda for reasons like profit or funding.
As with all progress in disproving the misconception of vaping and e-cigarettes, it comes through small increments over time. CoEHAR’s willingness to expose the issues with these studies can be seen as just such a step forward.
Not only is their work helping to further inform the benefits of vaping and e-cigarettes while simultaneously promoting good THR practices, but having a credible research group supporting the use of vapes is hugely important in discrediting the misinformation that has been so widely spread.