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Cancer Research Group Calls Out Misleading Headlines About Vaping

Cancer Research Group Calls Out Misleading Headlines About Vaping


Cancer Research Group Calls Out Misleading Headlines About Vaping

E-cigarettes and vaping have long found their way into the news, often carrying headlines that seem meant to scare and intimidate people, discouraging them from vaping using a misleading study. However, some groups are fighting back.

Cancer Research UK recently wrote an article condemning news stories that used a baited headline suggesting that vaping “might cause cancer,” and they picked apart the the study, published by the journal PNAS, from which those misleading headlines were based.

Vaping in Media

Vaping has long been the victim of overhyped scare tactics and faulty science for a number of reasons. One is an implicit bias against vaping - for many people, if something looks like smoking, it must be the same thing as smoking. Another is its competition with Big Tobacco and threats that the vaping industry poses to that market.

Yet another problem is the lack of comprehension about vaping as a harm reduction method, and failure to compare the health of a smoker to the health of a vaper - vaping isn't about getting nonsmokers to vape, it's about getting smokers to quit. Instead of playing up the fact that inhaling vapor isn't as healthy as inhaling clean air (one could point out that inhaling air in a congested city is also less healthy than cleaner air in a rural setting), we believe the public would be better served if smokers were more frequently reminded that vaping is a much less toxic alternative to inhaling smoldering tobacco, paper, and chemicals that have been lit on fire.

Finally, vaping is a relatively new industry and nicotine is associated with combustible cigarettes, which have been long associated with cancer. It’s good to have groups like Cancer Research UK authoritatively rebut the misinformation about vaping.


The group had a few main points of criticism about the study. First, they looked at the goals, methodology, and the relative inconclusivity of the study.

The most glaring damage to the credibility of the study, according to Cancer Research UK, was the fact that it didn’t use human subjects, instead opting for human cells in a dish and mice, and then drawing conclusions and projecting them onto how humans (whole bodies, not cells in a test tube) might react.  

Another gripe that Cancer Research had with the study was that the researchers focused on how components of e-cig vapor damage a cells’ DNA, in this case, cells from a human bladder and lung were used, rather than its comparison to tobacco smoke. DNA damage increases the risk of cancer because the cells were less able to repair the damage from nicotine. Still, a more thorough reading of the study found cells similarly exposed to cigarette smoke were near total death after hours, while cells exposed to vapor persisted with less severe changes for weeks.

“Studies like this are important for building up the evidence around vaping, and how e-cig vapour might damage cells in controlled conditions. It’s a small piece in the puzzle, and must be viewed alongside other studies. Large, long-term studies are also needed to definitively answer health questions, because those conclusions can’t be made from lab-grown cells and mice alone,” read the article.