The anti-tobacco lobby is engaging in an antagonistic misinformation campaign with new claims that vaping increases the risks of COPD and laryngeal cancer. This latest conspiracy theory precedes last month’s talking point that e-cigarettes can lead to a condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis or wet lung. Before that, there were stories swirling that the vapor in e-cigs is secretly laced with toxic levels of formaldehyde and that e-liquids are laced with anti-freeze.
Each of these erroneous claims has since been overwhelmingly refuted by the scientific community. Leading the charge to impugn the veracity of such outrageous allegations is a world class researcher from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos. Perhaps in an attempt to get ahead of another falsehood potentially going viral across the Internet which could possibly damage the international reputation of vaping yet again, Farsalinos is striking out publicly against a new study’s abstract published by the American Thoracic Society (ATS).
Farsalinos’ views on vaping, COPD & laryngeal cancer
The report entitled A6245 / 402 - E-Cigarette Use Is Associated with Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis and COPD published on the ATS website seems to have gotten the goat of the vape-friendly Farsalinos. The e-cig activist has never claimed that vaping is completely risk-free, but he does support previous research conducted by the UK’s Public Health England and elsewhere which claims that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than vaping. He does, however, take great issue with the ATS research, calling it pure “science fiction” in a May 31 blog on E-Cigarette Research.
The ATS study involves a 64-year old retired naval mechanic with a prior history of smoking three to four packs of cigarettes per day since he was a 16-year old teenager. For almost fifty years, the man had not only been a regular, daily smoker. Most would consider him to be a walking, talking human chimney.
In 2001, he was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) at the age of 47. Ten years later in 2011, he was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. Even while the retiree was undergoing radiotherapy for the cancer, he was still smoking three cigarettes per day. Once the therapy was over, he returned to his three to four pack per day activities.
Fast forward to 2013, two years after the cancer diagnosis and about one year after his return to his multipack-per-day smoking ritual, the patient tried switching to a “2nd generation e-cigarette” without success. As his health continued to decline, his doctors prescribed oxygen therapy and other aggressive protocols to battle the COPD and cancer. After being on oxygen for about a week, the patient then tries a “3rd generation e-cigarette,” according to the ATS report. He was able to successfully and permanently quit on the very first day and has vastly improved his health.
Here’s the rub. The co-authors claim that their ATS study is based on a cross-sectional sample group of participants. However, the number of vapers (11) far outweighed the number of non-vapers (6), which Farsalinos alleges skews the study’s findings. Meanwhile, the co-authors also seem to imply that switching to vaping was the cause – not the solution - of the patient’s exacerbated health symptoms when clearing his 50-year history of smoking several packs of cigarettes a day was a major contributing factor, to say the least. Dr. Farsalinos makes the following assertion.
“The above is a real case of smoker who developed serious medical conditions BEFORE he initiated e-cigarette use. The participation to the cross-sectional survey is science fiction, not different from comments that such an association (i.e. people who smoke and develop smoking-related disease at some point become desperate and try e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking) is proof of a ‘link’ between e-cigarettes and disease (clearly implying that e-cigarettes cause the disease). To their credit, the authors of the study (conference abstract) clearly mentioned that: “Due to the fact that the data is cross-sectional, it is unknown whether E-cigs could contribute to COPD development, or if people who have COPD are more likely to use E-cigs (possibly as a harm reduction method).”
The results of the ATS study essentially prove that switching to vaping helps reduce or roll back the number and severity of symptoms related to COPD. Yet the co-authors essentially bury this potentially pro-vaping point of positivity deep within the pages of its report. They even go so far as to say, “it is unknown whether E-cigs could contribute to COPD development,” which is simply untrue according to the ATS findings.
The ATS is not the only organization researching this field of study. A recent report published by Professor Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania, Italy, indicates that switching to vaping can reverse lung damage in asthmatic smokers. Another paper from the Italians shows that even after 3.5 years of vaping, the negative health impacts on the respiratory system are essentially non-existent.
So, why is the ATS apparently so reluctant to tout similar claims based on its own research? Dr. Farsalinos is probably asking himself the very same question.