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OWN #18 | 5-11 Aug 2019

More local drivel. Buckle up, here we go...

Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa vs Vaping

Warning, this might be a bit of a rant.

IOL published a wonderful piece this past week...filed with speculation and guesswork, stated as facts. Now personally I love these kinds of articles as it so perfectly show the state of the media all over the world at this time.

If you’re a vaper, you’re essentially a human guinea pig for one of the biggest experiments in human history.

That's the opening line...and we're off to a great start. Apparently, according to IOL, vaping is: a) one of the biggest "unproven" products ever used (which is bullshit), and (b) nothing is known about, and common sense does not apply to, vaping.

We know a lot about the short term effects of vaping - due to it's controlversial nature, hundreds of recent studies have taken a long, hard look at vaping. The findings have been mostly positive - when proper scientific procedures were followed. Now granted, there are still unknowns around the long term effects as these are impossible to measure until vaping has been around for a long (enough) period of time. But if the short term studies, and empirical findings by actual vapers, are anything to go by one thing is certain: vaping is less dangerous than smoking. And that really is the core of the discussion.

Like so many other new and unproven products, vaping has many unknowns. But unlike most other new products, vaping is tied to smoking. This simple fact changes everything about how it is perceived - until more facts are known.

I know I keep repeating this - but how can I not when the health experts and media keep bombarding us with this message: rather don't try the potentially healthier (but unproven) product, instead just keep smoking even though we know that will kill you. Apparently they are unaware of how difficult it is to give up smoking, and more importantly to stay off it long term. Vaping makes that possible for millions of people, perhaps for the first time ever. Brilliant...let's burn it to the ground.

Now, before we carry on, I should state that most of these statements come courtesy of Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA).

What the evidence from a number of short-term studies has shown is that vaping is very far from risk-free. Smokers who want to stop, have healthier alternatives available to them.

These "healthier alternatives" are more often than not, quite ineffective - this has also been "proven". You can prove anything nowadays, if you can afford it. A sad state of affairs unfortunately.

Exhaled aerosol clouds contain cancer-causing chemicals such as aldehydes that are potentially dangerous to everyone around vapers, Naidoo says. Vaping is also largely funded by big tobacco, an industry built on exploiting the addictiveness of nicotine, putting people’s health at high risk and creating one of the major causes of disease and death in the world.

First off, no evidence are provided for either of these claims. First, exhaled vapour has been shown to be mostly free from harmful elements - as this article and it's cited studies show. And secondly, the vaping industry was funded by thousands of average people, and opposed and openly fought by big tobacco for the longest time. Only now, in the face of certain defeat (i.e. vaping is actually stopping people from smoking) is big tobacco buying into existing vaping businesses. So....bullshit on both counts.

Vaping is no longer simply being used as a method to stop smoking, but is fast becoming the common way to introduce people who have never smoked cigarettes, particularly young people, to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.

Where is the evidence of this? These kind of statements that seem factual, but are in fact pure guesswork, should never come from a health professional.

Now this was all just introductory in the cited article. This is what happens next...

We might not know the long-term consequences of vaping, but there are some evidence-based facts that we all need to know about vaping:

Okay...finally, are we ready for some facts? Don't hold your breath.

Vape clouds are not water vapour

This is true...of course it's true - there is no water in e-liquid. The first actual fact stated in this article - and also, in no way damning, even though they try to put that spin on it by saying it contains unknown, unregulated components - great, let's regulate what goes into an e-liquid and remove the unknowns.

Nicotine does have health impacts

Again, this is factual (they're on a roll). What's most funny here is that this also applies to every other, allegedly "healthier", smoking cessation product on the market - nicotine gum/patch anyone?

Vaping increases the risks of halitosis and gum disease

Arguable, but there is some evidence to this effect. The risks are easily reduced by drinking more water, which you should be doing anyways.

Vaping decreases the expression of 358 genes related to immune function

This one starts with "A recent study...", but no study is linked. Perhaps there is such a study, perhaps there isn't - but should we believe every statement that starts that way on the internet?

Vaping is likely to increase the risks of cancers

This is by far my favourite "fact". A fact is undeniable and proven - while "likely" is a word we use to express uncertainty, even if it leans towards a higher probability of something being true. One study years back, which was a complete joke and has been debunked many times over, stated that vapour contains aldehydes - and the "scientific community" still quotes it as fact to this day.

And then we are left with this gem.

The HSFSA includes the research of Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit of the Division of Pulmonology and Lung Institute at the University of Cape Town in its anti-vaping campaign. His research shows e-cigarettes have not been shown to be safe or effective in quitting smoking.

"They contain nicotine, which is toxic and addictive, and tobacco companies are selling them. How can they be good?" van Zyl-Smit says.

No research was linked, but the second statement seems very scientific to me. Must be true then; all the other studies showing the exact opposite have to be wrong, don't they?

The e-cigarette industry needs to be tightly regulated, and independent assessment of the harms needs to be made, or we risk replacing one evil for another. E-cigarettes may be less dangerous than tobacco, but given that tobacco kills 50% of its users, what would not be safer?

I'll wholeheartedly agree with the first part of this statement, especially the part about independent assessment - but that goes both ways. The assessing party must not be for, or against, whatever it is they are assessing - it needs to be objective. But saying that because tobacco is very deadly anything considered less harmful is also deadly isn't exactly science, now is it?

Given the title of this article "What you may not know about vaping" I don't particularly feel like I know any more after reading this.

So here we go...yet another scary piece of journalism with very little facts to back it up. It's a brave new world.

The other side of the argument

Now after reading that, here is a refreshing article which tries to state both sides of this argument - complete with links to actual studies too. I'll not go into detail on it here, but it's definitely worth reading.

Other articles

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