Tag Archives: Vape

Electronic cigarettes aren’t good for you — in some respects, they’re worse than traditional cigarettes

E-cigarettes aren’t harmless. Although viewed as a healthier alternative, the study finds that e-cigarette smoking impacts heart health similar to the smoking of traditional cigarettes.

Image via Pixabay.

Several heart disease risk factors — cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose levels, as well as decreased blood flow in the heart — are negatively impacted by e-cigarette smoke. The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019, later this month.

Not harmless by far

“There is no long-term safety data on e-cigarettes. However, there are decades of data for the safety of other nicotine replacement therapies,” explains Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., FAHA, the American Heart Association’s deputy chief science and medical officer.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the use of FDA-approved smoking cessation aids, which are proven safe and effective. Robertson says that people often choose e-cigarettes as an alternative to quitting (as it is perceived as being safer than traditional tobacco), or as a temporary solution while working to quit altogether. In the latter case, however, she warns that people should also plan how to subsequently stop using e-cigarettes. There is a striking lack of data on the long-term safety of such devices, and growing concerns over the physiological effects caused by the chemical cocktails therein.

One study used in this report — the Cardiovascular Injury due to Tobacco Use (CITU) Study — compared cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose levels in healthy adult nonsmokers, e-cigarette smokers, traditional cigarette smokers, and dual smokers (who use both traditional and e-cigarettes). Participants were aged 21-45, didn’t have any preexisting cardiovascular disease, and took no relevant medication. Out of the total of 467 participants, 94 were non-smokers, 52 were dual smokers, 45 were e-cigarette smokers, and 285 were traditional cigarette smokers.

After adjusting for age, race, and sex, the team reports that total cholesterol was lower for e-cig smokers, but their low-density lipoprotein (LDL, ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels were higher, compared to nonsmokers. High-density lipoprotein (HDL, ‘good’ cholesterol) was lower in dual smokers.

“Although primary care providers and patients may think that the use of e-cigarettes by cigarette smokers makes heart health sense, our study shows e-cigarette use is also related to differences in cholesterol levels. The best option is to use FDA-approved methods to aid in smoking cessation, along with behavioral counseling,” said study author Sana Majid, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow in vascular biology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Another study looked at heart blood flow as a measure of coronary vascular function in 19 young adult smokers (ages 24-32) immediately before and after smoking either e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes. The study looked at this metric both at rest and after performing a handgrip exercise (meant to simulate physiological stress).

For smokers of traditional cigarettes, the team saw a “modest” increase in blood flow after cigarette inhalation, which decreased with subsequent stress. E-cig smokers, however, saw blood flow decrease both at rest and after the handgrip exercises. All in all, e-cigarette use seems to be associated with coronary vascular dysfunction to a greater degree than seen in traditional cigarettes.

“These results indicate that e-cig use is associated with persistent coronary vascular dysfunction at rest, even in the absence of physiologic stress,” said study author Florian Rader, medical director of the Human Physiology Laboratory and assistant director of the Non-Invasive Laboratory, Smidt Heart Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.

“Providers counseling patients on the use of nicotine products will want to consider the possibility that e-cigs may confer as much and potentially even more harm to users and especially patients at risk for vascular disease,” added study co-author Susan Cheng, director of Public Health Research at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The studies were funded by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, and The California State Tobacco-related Disease Research Program High Impact Pilot Research Award. The American Heart Association Tobacco Center for Regulatory Science provided research materials for the first study.

The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 conference, November 16-18 in Philadelphia, USA (sessions Mo3106, Sa3199).

Robot human hand.

The Twitter discussion around vapes is grand — and 70% filled with bots

Huh. I wonder who could possibly stand to benefit from this.

Robot human hand.

Image via Tumisu / Pixabay.

Social media discussions around e-cigarettes and their effects on human health may largely be driven by bots, a new paper reports. The study, led by researchers from the San Diego State University (SDSU), dredged the depths of Twitter to study the use and perceptions of e-cigarettes in the United States. The team planned to gain a better understanding of the people talking about vaping but instead found that most such users aren’t even people.

Smoking gun

The study started with a random sample of almost 194,000 geocoded tweets from across the United States posted between October 2015 and February 2016. Out of these, the team drew 973 random tweets and analyzed them for sentiment and source — i.e. from an individual or an organization, for example. Out of these, 887 tweets were identified as posted by individuals, a category that includes potential bots.

More than 66% of tweets from individuals used a supportive tone when talking about the use of e-cigarettes. About 59 percent of individuals also shared tweets about how they personally used e-cigarettes. The team was also able to identify adolescent Twitter users and over 55% of their tweets related to e-cigarettes used a positive tone. In tweets that gave reference to the harmfulness of e-cigarettes, 54% held that e-cigarettes are not harmful, or that they are significantly less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

The study raises an important question, however. To what extent are these debates our own, and to what extent are they promoted as ‘mainstream’ and ‘widely accepted’ in order to spin public discourse and sell more products? Over 70% of the tweets the team looked at seem to be penned by bots, the researchers report. So there are more chipsets than brains participating in this conversation. To add injury to the insult, these bots pose as real people in an attempt to promote products and sway public opinion on the topic of their health effects.

“We are not talking about accounts made to represent organizations, or a business or a cause. These accounts are made to look like regular people,” said Lourdes Martinez, paper co-author. “This raises the question: To what extent is the public health discourse online being driven by robot accounts?”

And the discovery came on by accident. The team set out to use Twitter data to study what actual people discuss about on the topic of e-cigarettes. However, during their research, the team realized they were, in fact, dealing with a lot of bot accounts.

Bots ahoy

Mask smoke.

Hello, fellow humans. I am also human. I like to vape with my lung.

After observing anomalies in the dataset, namely related to confusing and illogical posts about e-cigarettes and vaping, the team reviewed user types and decided to reclassify them. They specifically made an effort to identify accounts that appeared to be operated by robots.

“Robots are the biggest challenges and problems in social media analytics,” said Ming-Hsiang Tsou, founding director of SDSU’s Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age and co-author on the study.

“Since most of them are ‘commercial-oriented’ or ‘political-oriented,’ they will skew the analysis results and provide wrong conclusions for the analysis.”

The findings come just one month after Twitter purged its user base of millions of suspicious and fake accounts. The platform also announced it will launch new mechanisms aimed at identifying and fighting spam and other types of abuse on its virtual lands.

Tsou appreciates the effort and says that “some robots can be easily removed based on their content and behaviors,” while others “look exactly like human beings and can be more difficult to detect.”

“This is a very hot topic now in social media analytics research,” he says.

“The lack of awareness and need to voice a public health position on e-cigarettes represents a vital opportunity to continue winning gains for tobacco control and prevention efforts through health communication interventions targeting e-cigarettes,” the team wrote in the paper.

Martinez thinks public health agencies and organizations must make an effort to become more aware of the conversations happening on social media if they hope to have a chance of keeping the general public informed in the face of all of these bots.

“We do not know the source, or if they are being paid by commercial interests,” Martinez said. “Are these robot accounts evading regulations? I do not know the answer to that. But that is something consumers deserve to know, and there are some very clear rules about tobacco marketing and the ways in which it is regulated.”

The paper ““Okay, We Get It. You Vape”: An Analysis of Geocoded Content, Context, and Sentiment regarding E-Cigarettes on Twitter” has been published in the Journal of Health Communication.