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Bad Science

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Sigh… ok. Time to deal with one of the main bugbears of anyone interested in seeing vaping expand at the expense of tobacco. Bad science, and bad science reporting. One of the greatest challenges to getting people to understand the potential benefits of vaping are those crazy articles.

We’ve all seen those headlines. In fact, at this stage it might even be easier to list the things that don’t supposedly give you some of form cancer. Some are worse than others but our general view of the quality of science journalism in most papers is not favourable.

One really caught our ire recently. This little number from NBC News. Where to even begin? The ridiculous headline, the inaccurate subheading, the misinterpretation of basic points from the underlying research the article is citing… it just goes on and on.

The piece tries to promote the idea that vaping can introduce toxins to the body at three times the rate of a non-vaper, without giving any reference to what these levels would be in a smoker. There’s no context. Half of the piece merely describes different toxins, whether or not they have anything to do with vaping. It’s bad journalism, but while we’re at it, how about the study?

Well, the sample size is small, the controls are weak and the findings weaker. This Pediatrics reports concedes that vaping is far less unhealthy than smoking and doesn’t go further than to suggest e-liquids should have sufficient health warnings to reflect what impact to health there is.

There’s better research out there, and we don’t just see it that way because the results are more favourable for us. When PHE undertakes half decade studies involving over 15,000 samples, we’re always going to be more interested in that. It’s more rigorous and more reliable. They have no agenda.

That couldn’t be said for half of the contributing scientists from the Pediatrics journal by the way. Note the financial disclosure section at the bottom of the paper. Half of them have conflicting interests in companies making alternative quit-smoking aids. It’s just a joke.

Understanding how to pick out the good science from the bad is a really handy trick to master in life. There’s so much rubbish information swirling around out there in the world now, an ability to discern for yourself is almost becoming essential.

We happen to love this tidy little poster from the guys over at Compound Interest, A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science. Study it well, and don’t get caught up in sensationalist tripe again!

 

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