The ongoing battle of America vs Vaping has been something which has been going for years, and it’s not exactly been the cleanest of battles. With America’s stance on vaping not being a very positive one, with some states completely banning flavoured vape juice as well as raising the legal smoking/vaping age from 18 to 21 in a bid to combat the youth vaping problem that has previously been happening in America.
But in a very interesting turn of events recently, a study has been conducted and published for public reading by the Physicians Research Institute, which gives their position on Vaping and looks at how it can actually help in harm reduction for people wanting to quit smoking. In this article, I’m going to take a look into who PRI are, the study they’ve conducted and why this could potentially be a breakthrough in the battle of America vs Vaping.
Who are the Physicians Research Institute?
As mentioned, this study was conducted by the Physicians Research Institute, who are based in Baltimore, a city in the state of Maryland in the USA. I’d never heard of them prior to discovering this study that had been released by them, so decided I’d take it upon myself to do some research into their history, and then share this information with you if you also weren’t aware of who they were.
Founded in 2016, the Physicians Research Institute was started as a not for profit organisation and was physician directed, and 7 years on, it is still physician directed which they make quite clear on their website. Their website gives a clear insight to what they set out to do and achieve, which is
“Detailed and otherwise unavailable information with respect to workers’ compensation, a technology to deactivate opioids and vaping as a harm reduction method with respect to tobacco dependence”
The last part of that statement is huge, and is what we will be focusing on for the sake of this article. No other respected Institute have made a clear statement on being focused towards vaping being a harm reduction method, so it’s something pretty big to find an institute with this as one of their key focus points.
How the PRI Position on Vaping study came about
Now we move on to a bit of background to how this study came to be commissioned before getting into the study itself. A member of the State Medical Society who are involved with PRI requested information on the value of vaping as a harm reduction solution to tobacco use.
PRI were happy to oblige to carry out this study, and enlisted the help of an expert with vast knowledge of vaping and any related issues involved on the topic.
This is where Cheryl K Olsen, the author of this study comes in! Dr Olsen holds a Doctorate from Harvard School of Public Health and was also a member of Harvard Medical School research faculty for over 15 years! She has an extensive publication record and her work is very sought after when it comes to matters related to public health.
PRI make the statement also that this report was funded by a grant from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, another non-profit independent global organisation, and in turn;
The contents, views, and presentation of the facts are solely that of Dr Olson and does not reflect the positional standings of the Foundation.
Vaping as a Harm Reduction Solution to Tobacco Use: A Summary for Physicians
And now we move on to getting into the study carried out by Dr. Olsen. Now the report itself is absolutely massive, and I won’t go through every single piece of it in detail as we could be here a while, instead I’ll document and discuss the key parts of the study. The key points are documented below, as made by Dr.Olsen herself
- Over 30 million adult Americans still smoke.
- Cigarettes take nearly half a million lives each year.
- Today’s smokers have more disadvantages; quitting is harder.
- Standard cessation treatments (nicotine replacement therapies and medications) usually fail.
- Most physicians misperceive the risks of nicotine; the danger arises from combustion.
- Electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) are a legal alternative.
- Smoking is at least 20 times more harmful than vaping nicotine.
- In randomized controlled trials and population surveys, e-cigarettes outperform nicotine replacement therapies. Even smokers not planning to quit do so with vaping.
- Switching from smoking to vaping leads to rapid measurable reductions in biomarkers of harm.
The references to the United Kingdom and comparing similarities
The study starts off on two different subjects, with one being similar to the state of affairs in the United Kingdom, as well as directly referencing and comparing some statistics from a study carried in the UK looking at smoking prevalence within the country.
The study looks at who smokes today within the United States, which stands at over 30 million as the above statistics show, equivalent to 25 out of every 200 adults within the country. It also highlights the fact that smoking prevalence is higher and mostly concentrated within “vulnerable populations”
They highlight the fact that todays smokers in America are likely unemployed, less educated, have a low income and/or dealing with chronic illness or disease and smoking is an outlet to them.
They also state the large majority of smokers will be without heath care insurance, which is an essential thing to have in America and many companies won’t entertain smokers, or the premium they quote will be considerably higher than someone who doesn’t smoke I’d imagine.
This goes hand in hand with smoking prevalence here in the United Kingdom, as other studies show that rates for smoking are considerably higher in more “deprived” areas of the country, where the similar criteria listed above matches up, with income, disability and low income being priority benefactors.
The study also references a study carried out here in the UK that shows that smoking is the largest single risk factor for death and years lived globally, and as the above key points show, smoking claims the lives of nearly half a million smokers every single year in the USA.
A look into Nicotine Replacement Therapy
If you didn’t already know what Nicotine Replacement Therapy is, it’s the method that people who are wanting to quit smoking will take up using to replace the nicotine they had become accustomed to, and some what dependant on, previously obtained from smoking cigarettes.
The study looks at options that have been available as nicotine replacement for a long time. Things like Nicotine patches, nicotine gum, sprays and gum have been available world wide, and prescribed to people by Doctors when they wish to quit smoking.
There was also a time when tablets like Zyban and Champix were prescribed to patients also, but these are now not available to be issued as prescription. But there has been proven flaws with these things, and the fact they do not satisfy users enough to resist relapsing back to smoking cigarettes.
The tablets I mentioned also have now ceased from being prescribed by Doctor’s, both in the States as well as the UK, and I know from personal experience when close family members of mine took them, they can give off some very serious side effects and can also interact with any other medications that the person may be taking, most notably prescription tablets used to improve a person mental health.
Dr. Olsen references a quote from the study Co-Author Vaugn Rees made at “The World E-Cigarette Summit” who said
“The best evidence-based interventions are now dated, overrated and cannot meet the challenge of reducing tobacco-related harm in this century.”
An indication that it’s time for more research into the usefulness of E-Cigarettes as NRT options perhaps?
What’s right and wrong that is said about Nicotine
Dr. Olsen then moves onto the above subject and highlights the facts of misperception about Nicotine.
Nicotine is responsible for the highly addictive nature of tobacco products, but most tobacco-caused disease is not directly caused by nicotine, but rather by other chemicals present in tobacco or tobacco smoke”. Stunningly, four of five physicians in this U.S. survey strongly (and wrongly) agreed that nicotine causes cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This is really scary to read, that FOUR out of five Physicians believe nicotine causes cancer, and all other deadly disease listed above, when in reality, it doesn’t do anything of the sort. Cancer Research UK has previously published a study which cements the fact Nicotine is not harmful as there has not been any proven scientific evidence of the kind to prove it.
Statements and beliefs like the above, which makes Nicotine the public enemy number one can be really damaging to the legitimacy of vaping and will ensure people will join this 4/5 crowd into believing Nicotine is harmful, and will then not go onto using E-Cigarettes to begin reduction of harm.
It’s documented that abstinence from Nicotine isn’t as simple as that, nor is it an easy task for a user, and a move away from the continuum of risk would be finding an alternative from smoking, and that being NRT.
And people who use these alternatives will begin eliminating the risk of tobacco causing further harm than it already has, but what would be the most viable way? You’ve probably guessed where this is going…
The use of E-Cigarettes as the leading harm reduction method
Now we move onto the main event, the key part of this study and boy does it deliver some pretty ground-breaking statements and facts which could be a giant leap forward in breaking the dark cloud that hangs over vaping within the United States.
How Vaping is perceived in America
This study picks up straight away on the bad light that Vaping is held in within the country of America. It picks out the facts that Vaping is looked down on, especially of late with the sudden hike in youth vaping numbers, of which has started decreasing by itself which I’ve previously written about.
A quote about the fact that E-Cigarettes having potential lifesaving benefits for adult smokers must have equal attention given to it like what the prevention of youths using them get, which is huge.
Moving on to all the negative media attention Vaping gets, Dr. Olsen highlights what the FDA (Food and Drugs Association) has previously done regarding vaping, such as enforcing that all nicotine products must be “approved” prior to sale and before they can be legally marketed.
And as it stands, NO vaping products have currently been approved, thus creating a massive backlog of applications and potentially unfair refusals of applications also.
Doctors don’t know enough about Vaping
If you don’t really understand about Vaping, fear not as you’re not alone. But who joins you as company is quite worrying, as this study shows that a high volume of Doctors in the USA don’t actually know about the harm reduction that Vaping could bring to a person.
Instead, they admit they have followed the news, the internet, or patient reports to make up their mind. This is a massive risk as we all know what’s previously been printed in the media who do not hold vaping in a positive light, and for healthcare professionals to be taking this as gospel is pretty worrying don’t you think?
UK studies used again as reference to clarify what we know about E-Cigarettes
In conclusion of this study, another reference back to a separate study that was carried out here in the UK shows what we, as society, actually do know about E-Cigarettes. The study referenced back to is one issued by Public Health England, who we all know are big advocates of vaping and gave declared it to be 95% safer than smoking. And the experts who conducted this study they reference say “Smoking is at least 20 times more harmful to someone than what Vaping is”
The UK study also declares the below, all of which absolutely destroys the above mentioned that Vaping and nicotine causes these deadly diseases.
And finally, it also mentions a consensus report that was carried out in the United States that declares
“Laboratory tests of e-cigarette ingredients, in vitro toxicological tests, and short-term human studies suggest that e-cigarettes are likely to be far less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes.”
It concludes and acknowledges the fact that misconceptions about Vaping have taken off in popular media-based outlets, but with very minimal scientific evidence to back it up.
Is there a breakthrough on the horizon for Vaping in America?
I’m going to conclude my article here, and discuss the above question and give my thoughts on this entire study as a whole.
Yes, I truly believe that a breakthrough and abolishment of the stigma that overhangs the topic of Vaping is well on the way now after this absolutely superb study was conducted by Dr. Olsen. For too long, there has been so much negative media attention about the false risks of vaping, and Nicotine, and it’s sucking people in at a fast rate, even including doctors as mentioned previous in this article. But now with this study being released, I’m hoping that there will start to be a positive change forward for the future of Vaping in America.
Whilst there will still be sceptics, and disbelievers, I’m hoping that this will open their previously wool covered eyes from what they have previously read in the media, and more belief and backing of Vaping in the USA will begin to come to fruition in the year 2023.