A California researcher who helped conduct an ecig vapor study, published a statement claiming that “e-cigarettes are no safer than smoking regular cigarettes.” She has since retracted her statement, made in the VA San Diego Healthcare System and UC San Diego researchers in Oral Oncology, an international interdisciplinary journal.
Dr. Jessica Wang-Rodriguez made her statement despite the absence of any findings in the study to support her claim. The study in question examined human cell cultures to determine the consequences of exposure to large amounts of ecig vapor versus tobacco smoke. According to her research, human cells became damaged when exposed to high levels of vapor, leaving the opportunity for cancer cells to form. However, the study ultimately concluded that human cells were much more damaged when exposed to tobacco smoke compared to ecig vapor.
From the day these findings were released, the entire group of researchers who conducted the study advised the public through an online statement that more long-term research was needed; without it, they were unable to confirm whether or not an ecig was a safer alternative to a tobacco cigarette.
Nevertheless, Dr. Wang-Rodriguez and the media glossed over the need for more research and the study’s actual findings; focusing instead on a single unsupported statement about ecig vapor exposure. To make matters worse, various reputable digital media outlets went on to publicize her statement without digging further.
Many sensationalized, ill-informed news headlines went on to claim that “e-cigs are just as bad as tobacco” and that “e-cig vapor causes cancer.” The Guadian, Fusion and The Daily Telegraph were among the top media outlets responsible for this kind of flawed, unsubstantiated journalism.
In fact, one science reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune, Bradley J. Flikes, was so outraged by the lack of professionalism in reporting on this topic that he published an opinion piece. In his article, he called out numerous journalists and media outlets for not actually reviewing the ecig vapor study and double verifying claims before publishing them.
With outcries from credible journalists like Mr. Flikes and ecig enthusiasts, Dr. Wang-Rodriguez finally corrected her comment, saying, “Contrary to what was stated or implied in much of the news coverage resulting from this news release, the lab experiments did not find that e-cigarette vapor was as harmful to cells as cigarette smoke. In fact, one phase of the experiments, not addressed in the news release, found that cigarette smoke did, in fact, kill cells at a much faster rate.”
This epic failure on behalf of one scientist and the media’s lack of due diligence has many questioning the judgment and ethics of scientists and journalists around the country. In the meantime, the damage to the ecig industry has already been done. While we hope Dr. Wang-Rodriguez’s correction will be seen by the same amount of people who read the initial false ecig vapor stories, no one can know for sure.
Additionally, some ecig supporters are finding the study problematic because of the highly concentrated levels of ecig vapor that the human cells were exposed to. According to Wang-Rodriguez’s statement in a press release, to achieve similar high volume ecig vapor exposure in real life, a person would have to vape for numerous hours in a row. This is something that most vapers can confirm is not common practice among the majority of people who use vapor devices.
While this story is pretty disappointing to the vaporizer community, we are encouraged to see a researcher correct her fallacious comments. What do you think about this entire situation—do you blame the researcher or the media? Or both? Do you think Dr. Wang-Rodriguez’s correction will overcome all the bad press that has already been established? Tell us in the comment section below and make sure to share the real story about this study with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!