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ECigIntelligence - Media release misrepresented cancer findings

ECigIntelligence - A science publisher’s own publicity for a research article on e-cigarettes and cancer has been criticised for suggesting conclusions unjustified by the data.

For a recent paper in the John Wiley & Sons journal Cancer, entitled “Electronic cigarette use among patients with cancer”, researchers investigated people enrolled in a tobacco treatment programme at a major American cancer centre to find out if e-cigarettes were linked to smoking cessation.

The press release on the study is headlined “E-cigarettes unhelpful in smoking cessation among cancer patients”, but the study authors are more cautious and conclude: “The current longitudinal findings raise doubts concerning the usefulness of e-cigarettes for facilitating smoking cessation among patients with cancer.” (Our emphasis.)

Depending on the way the data was analysed, e-cigarette users among the cancer patients were either twice as likely, or only as likely, as non-vapers to be smoking at the time of a follow-up survey.

Tobacco research experts have also found an apparently glaring problem with the study itself: it recruited smokers of tobacco, whether they were recent users of e-cigarettes or not, and did not include those who actually had stopped smoking after trying e-cigarettes.

Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Barts in London, made that observation, and also noted that the study displays “uncertainty as to whether these smokers tried e-cigarettes only once or used them for a few days or weeks and for what purpose, and present[ed] smokers who used e-cigarettes, possibly only once 13 months ago, as if they were using them throughout the year”.

Robert West, director of tobacco studies at University College London, also noted the problem with ruling out successful quitters, although he did add that the study is well-designed and describes what happens to smokers who also use e-cigarettes and who have a strong incentive to stop smoking. [Read more at ECigIntelligence]


– Marc Beishon ECigIntelligence health correspondent

Photo: Luigi Rosa