Since vaping became popular in the mid 2010s there were always those fully against our ability to choose how we want to consume nicotine and tobacco products. In the eyes of the anti-vaping movement, the products we have come to love were accused of fueling the youth vaping epidemic and the vapor produced causes effects akin to secondhand smoking. With the mass media hysteria of vaping products and our willingness to simply consume every headline that pops up on our phones, mainstream media capitalized on this by pushing out anything and everything regardless of whether the studies backing up these fear-inducing claims were legitimate. Get this, one of the studies blasted out was titled: Vaping Causes Erectile Dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction. WOW!
What we are here for is this: despite the crippling state our industry finds itself in, we're still here and we intend to stick around. And in order for us to do that, however, we need to take an education-first approach that is rooted in science. Actual, scientifically-backed and objectively-funded studies that call out the real consequences of e-cigarette use, both good and bad. To this extent, we will definitely call out a few of the bogus studies mainstream media has embraced. You'd be surprised just how far-fetched some of these headlines are.
MYTH 1: VAPING CAUSES NEUROLOGICAL INFLAMMATION
In April 2022, eLife Sciences published a piece detailing the potential inflammation to occur in the brain, lung, heart, and colon with daily JUUL use over a 3-month period.
The study concluded that all four bodily systems were negative affected with JUUL use, with its wildest claim stating that "...daily e-cigarette use may cause neuroinflammation, which may contribute to behavioral changes and mood disorders."
Sounds like a normal day in the lab right? These scientists are being paid to force mice to inhale 50MG of nicotine from a closed system device and it conveniently happens to be a JUUL thus further fueling the hatred to a single actor in the industry yet making the correlation that if JUUL is the big bad wolf, everyone else must be too, right?
And we're not even to the part where we de-bunk the myth, either. That's coming soon!
The Facts That Don't Add Up
For a study to conclude that daily use of e-cigarettes can affect humans in such a drastic way, you would think this headline would have caught the attention of just about every vaper, right? Well, if you continue to read the study, you'd also notice the scientists have made several other counter-claims to essentially nullify the potentially devastating effect.
For example, the scientists notated "Contrary to our initial expectation, we did not find significant changes in autonomic tone or pulmonary function with daily, long-term JUUL aerosol exposure." So what is this? The scientists created a scenario to learn about - does vaping cause inflammation? And given their study, they ruled that there is no quantifiable result that would argue the case.
Frankly speaking, nicotine, the active chemical in e-liquid and for some odd reason, that is public enemy number one in the USA, shows anti-inflammatory effects as it's proven in a 2022 study published by Frontiers. In this study, researchers note "that nicotine...stimulates the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor signaling anti-inflammatory pathway to reduce inflammatory response, depression...[and more]." And to add further confusion, the Frontier study doesn't necessarily rule out how dosing nicotine might help or harm the argument. So who's the liar here? On the one hand, you have the eLife study conducting a nicotine study with a widely popular product and finding nothing; and the Frontier study that does a general study with a clearer and more concise conclusion. Regardless of which study you choose to side with, why on earth did the mainstream media simply glaze over the particulars and push out a sensationalist headline, totally foregoing any ounce of logical objectivity?
MYTH 2: VAPING CAUSES ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION
December 2021, CNN reports "vaping doubled the risk of erectile dysfunction in men 20 and older." The study in question comes from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM), a for-profit organization that is primarily funded by the University of Michigan. You know, that school that consistently gets its funding from anti-vaping and tobacco control groups such as the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study? The same group that contributes heavily skewed data to the rest of the sensationalist studies out in the world today? Hmm...seems like a great choice to pull the data from!
Anyways, the study goes on to state "the use of ENDS seems to be associated with erectile dysfunction independent of age, cardiovascular disease, and other risk factors. While ENDS remain under evaluation for harm reduction and smoking-cessation potential, ENDS users should be informed about the possible association between ENDS use and erectile dysfunction." The study involved over 13,000 men over the age of 20 that reported their experience with ED.
The study involved over 13,000 men over the age of 20 that reported their experience with ED. Note - the keywords here are that these men were asked to self-report whether they experienced ED and happened to use e-cigarettes. Several things wrong with the methodology here.
Debunking the Myths
For starters, there was no distinction about how often these e-cigarette users used e-cigarettes! Out of 13,000 men, four percent of them used e-cigarettes. Whether they were daily users, first time users, occasional users, dual users, etc - well, we will never know!
Next, the participants were asked to self-report their experiences with ED and the misfortune that comes with it in engaging in sexual intercourse. We don't need to hold a degree in the field to know basic probability and statistics here. Running a study with that sample size and asking its participants to self-report themselves will almost always turn out heavily biased. And it did to the key of the researchers needing to state "...the analyses were based on both self-reported covariate data, ENDS use status, and ED status, all of which are subject to misclassification, recall, and social desirability bias..."
Then there's the lack of association between e-cigarette and cigarette users. By this logic, those that consume nicotine in general are prone to experience ED. Why is that e-cigarettes are solely to blame if both consumption methods are supposed to be 1:1?
Last but certainly one of the most critical issues the study fails to acknowledge is whether these study participants were already experiencing ED symptoms prior to beginning their life with e-cigarettes. The classic, "chicken or the egg" concept was in full force. If participants already had ED before they began vaping, is vaping really to blame?
That's four very real dissenting arguments against this study. Yet, what does the media do? They ignore it all and focus entirely on the headline - VAPING CAUSES ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION YA'LL. But of course, let's not read the rest of the study and realize that what we're pushing is totally off-base.
MYTH 3: VAPING INCREASES YOUR CHANCES OF STROKE COMPARED TO CIGARETTES
We remember when this headline came out. It was literally all over the media sites. CNN invited their in-house scientist to talk about it, MSN published the sensationalist media as if the study actually existed. Oh wait, the headline never actually came from a study! The study in question, on track to have been published via the American Heart Association (AHA). And if the study was published, the argument would be that both e-cigarette and cigarette users (again, zero distinction between the two starkly different ways of consuming tobacco products) are at a higher risk of experiencing a stroke.
Debunking the Myth
First of all, the study cannot be called a study because it was never published. Therefore, the media should not assume whatever comes out of the AHA's mouth is bona-fide and legitimate information because there is simply zero evidence supporting the claim. This is like as if the Supreme Court leaked their decision on its overturning of Roe v Wade and the world descending into chaos, but then never actually doing it. There is no actual evidence here - SO WHY WOULD THE MEDIA GO AND BLAST IT OUT AS IF IT WAS?!
Second of all, by the time the study concluded and the results were in, it's no wonder why the study never made it to the publisher's desk. The results were wrong! The researchers concluded "stoke was far more common among traditional cigarette smokers than e-cigarette users or people who used both, 6.75% compared to 1.09% and 3.72%, respectively." This means that if vaping was to increase your chances of a stroke, wouldn't that probability be reversed?
Clinical trials have consistently shown that vaping helps smokers to make the switch over from cigarettes in a much more-sustainable way; and that simply cutting down the number of cigarettes you consume has a very lasting effect on decreasing your probability to the stroke. It's very simple: the less cigarettes you smoke, the less likely you are to experience the stroke.
Once again, the media (and the AHA as a whole, for that matter), choose to not publish anything that goes against the "Vaping is Bad" narrative. Because you know, defeats the purpose of destroying the industry!
MYTH 4: TEENS THAT VAPE ARE MORE LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE DEPRESSION
One of the vape industry's most notorious anti-everything organizations, the Truth Initiative funded a study in cooperation with the Big Tobacco industry. The headline - "Nicotine Use Causes Teen Depression."
Leveraging the data presented by the Pew Research Center detailing what goes through your typical teenager's brain in high school, the study concludes that teenagers experience a great deal of pressure to set themselves up for adult life as soon as they turn 18. Whether that is to attend college or get to work, almost all of them experience some degree of mental health strain in just about anything and everything they focus their energy on.
Seeing that it's not totally out of the question for the Truth Initiative to leverage data for their own narrative, the anti-vaping advocacy group argues that it's not the pressure to get good grades, but rather, the JUUL that gets passed around in class as the main culprit of the mental health decline.
The study itself reinforces nicotine's danger to developing brains, emphasizing the Captain Obvious fact that nicotine is a highly addictive substance. It also argues:
- Nicotine can worsen anxiety symptoms and amplify feelings of depression;
- Current e-cigarette users have double the odds of earning themselves a formal depression diagnosis;
- E-cigarettes are associated with more frequent and more intense depressive episodes;
- The trace metals found in e-liquids may play a role in depression; and
- Nicotine is not known to lessen the feelings of stress and other mental health ailments.
Before we go on to break apart this report, it is worth noting a few things that would otherwise destroy the legitimacy of the argument. The most pressing being the fact that teenagers are in a delicate mental state be default. If you read the Pew Research study, most teenagers are under immense pressure to prepare themselves for college or whatever else comes after high school. Couple that with their hormones going crazy and you've got yourself one mess of a human simply trying to exist peacefully. Whether these teenagers engage in e-cigarettes or not, it's a stretch to link their very-natural growth trajectory to going completely wrong simply because they did what every other teenager in the history of this country has done: got their hands on a product that is not meant for them. Anyways, on with the myth-busting!
Debunking the Myth
In the Truth report, it blatantly states "though it is unknown whether a causal relationship between nicotine and mental health conditions exist, there are troubling links between vaping nicotine and worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety..." This statement alone already admits abject failure to present a clear and concise argument. What this statement shows is that similar to teenagers already going through a period of change, it is up-in-the-air as to whether vaping helps or harms the cause since there is so much chaos present in these teenagers by default.
Second, similar to its anti-inflammatory effects as stated in Myth 1, nicotine also possesses anti-depressant properties, thus turning the Truth Initiative's argument on its head. Nicotine doesn't cause or amplify depressive feelings, but rather, it provides relief against those symptoms. And it's further proven across three hundred other studies, all of which argue that nicotine possesses the ability to modulate our dopamine receptors. By consuming nicotine in a depressive state, we are triggering the rewarding feeling, most of which wouldn't be possible to experience if nicotine was not consumed. What TI is hoping to achieve here very much fits the narrative of the anti-vaping goal: let's restrict access to these products regardless of the real consequences of doing so among all the other possible functions nicotine products can provide. Let's totally restrict these products and allow the depressed people even less resources then wonder why that problem gets worse.
Naturally, since this report was published by the Truth Initiative, and the organization has been at the forefront of fear-mongering for the better part of two decades, this bogus argument made its rounds in the media. Once again, to no surprise, the media likes flashy headlines but their due diligence team simply fails to recognize some of its flaws, no matter how blatant it might be.
DO YOU SEE THE COMMON DENOMINATOR YET?
If you haven't already got the hint here, here it is spelled out for you: most of the vaping studies that make headlines are fundamentally flawed. And they're often due to logical fallacies, how things are worded or just straight-up wrong. And seeing our reliance on the media to effectively go and bring these stories to light so we don't have to, we place an awful amount of trust in companies that are supposed to be relatively unbiased.
Now, we are all intelligent adults here. And we have access to the internet. And all of these studies are usually published on the internet for all to see. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to fact-check whatever you're reading on Yahoo or CNN. If you are genuinely concerned about how your vaping habit helps or harms you, now, or later on in life, there are several resources to read up on. Don't just take whatever you google at face-value. Fact-check it! You'd be surprised how skewed data is when you're choosing secondhand data over first-hand. Happy vaping, BLVK fam.