If you keep up on your vaping news, you may have seen a story earlier this month about a study that was conducted recently that seemed to show that e-cigarette use can double—yes, double!—the risk of bronchitis in teenagers.
And you may have thought, “Well then, that can’t be good for vapers or the vaping community!” And if that study, which was conducted by the University of Southern California, was everything it appeared to be, it most certainly would not be good for those who advocate for vaping.
After all, bronchitis, and especially chronic bronchitis, is a serious condition, so there’s no way the vaping industry would be able to overcome such a damning study. It would turn lots of people off from vaping and do irreparable damage to many vape shops all across the country.
As it turns out, though, the study is not without its flaws. In fact, one doctor, Dr. Farsalinos, published a blog a short time after the study was released to dispute everything in the study and to try and show that people shouldn’t trust the findings in it.
In his mind, the study does a huge disservice to the vaping community by putting out ideas about vaping that aren’t true at all, and Dr. Farsalinos claims that people should think twice before they believe all of the media reports about it.
His blog, which you can read in its entirety here, sheds some light on the misinformation that is often spread about vaping and the problems it can cause once it gets out there in the world.
What the Study Said
” there is no clear connection between the two, and by reporting on the press release that was sent out, the media is perpetuating a belief that is simply not true.”
While conducting a study on the health effects of vaping, a team of researchers at USC asked 2,000 older teenagers if they ever exhibited symptoms of chronic bronchitis. One of these symptoms is a daily cough that lasts for at least three months.
They also asked these teens about their smoking and vaping habits and then cross-referenced their findings to see if vaping caused any signs of lung diseases or bronchitis in teens.
After doing this, the researchers released some pretty surprising findings. The American Thoracic Society put out a press release entitled “E-cigarettes may harm teens’ lung health” that reported that teens who use e-cigarettes are about 85 percent more likely to develop chronic bronchitis than those who don’t use them.
The release also reported that those who had used e-cigarettes in the past but didn’t use them anymore were also about 41 percent more likely to experience chronic bronchitis. The researchers theorized that the risk was the result of diacetyl found in certain e-cigarette flavorings, which, according to them, caused a condition called “popcorn lung.” That condition reportedly led to lung diseases like chronic bronchitis.
Overall, the study concluded that e-cigarette use—and even past e-cigarette use—were to blame for so many teens suffering from chronic bronchitis. It was an alarming conclusion that caused many publications, like the Daily Mail, to spring into action and publish articles about the study.
Why the Study Came Up Short
The problem with the study that was done, according to Dr. Farsalinos, was that the researchers went about gathering their information in the wrong way. You might think that researchers would want a doctor to officially diagnose the teens who were surveyed with chronic bronchitis or, at the very least, get some form of proof of chronic bronchitis from the teens who participated in the survey that was done.
But Dr. Farsalinos pointed out that they didn’t do this, and instead, they simply asked the teens if they had chronic bronchitis symptoms and then took their word for it. That is obviously not the ideal way to conduct a study that is based on health, and there’s a good chance that many teens provided the researchers with incorrect information about their health.
Dr. Farsalinos also took issue with the way that researchers used the word “risk” within the report about their findings. He doesn’t believe that they were able to accurately assess the risk involved with using e-cigarettes, and he thinks they relied too heavily on assumptions that were made during the study.
The researchers didn’t take a close enough look at the correlation between e-cigarette use and symptoms of chronic bronchitis, and for that reason alone, he discredited all of the conclusions that the researchers came to at the end of their study.
He called the connection that they found between e-cigarette use and chronic bronchitis symptoms “coincidental” and made it clear that he doesn’t think it was responsible for the researchers to put out the findings of the study that they conducted.
How the Study Is Problematic
One of the biggest issues that Dr. Farsalinos has with the study is that it has caused panic amongst those in the media. Many media outlets saw the headline that the American Thoracic Society used for their press release and immediately jumped to the conclusion that using e-cigarettes leads to chronic bronchitis in teens.
But as Dr. Farsalinos mentioned in his blog, there is no clear connection between the two, and by reporting on the press release that was sent out, the media is perpetuating a belief that is simply not true.
Dr. Farsalinos also took things one step further by looking at recent CDC data surrounding chronic obstructive lung disease in teens in southern California. He found that, according to the data, an amazing 19.2 percent of teens who fall between the ages of 16 and 18 have self-reported “bronchitis,” which is a staggering number.
But he doesn’t believe it’s the result of some underlying issue. Rather, he believes “the self-reported prevalence of symptoms has been just misrepresented as lung disease.”
Dr. Farsalinos raises some very interesting points about the USC study and seems to shoot down many of its conclusions. He also points out that, unfortunately, the media is often too quick to jump to their own conclusions after reading about these kinds of studies.
They should be slower to react in these situations, lest they give people the wrong idea about vaping. Otherwise, it creates confusion and forces people like Dr. Farsalinos to work twice as hard to show people the truth about vaping.