Tuesday 11 December 2018
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Dundee - 25 days ago

Health bodies’ e-cig strategy not evidence based, says researcher

A University of Dundee researcher leading the largest trial into the vascular effects of e-cigarettes says health bodies mixed messages over the use of the devices is not helpful. Jacob George, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Therapeutics at Dundee Medical School, said that government bodies should not be actively encouraging smokers to adopt e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes until further scientific evidence is available. Professor George has recently completed a two-year study into the health effects of swapping cigarettes for vaporisers. As he compiles his findings, he will address the next Caf Science Dundee event on Monday 19 November to provide the public with an update on his work. E-cigarettes are interesting as we clearly don t have enough information on what harm they can cause, or the benefits they could have for people looking to quit smoking, he said. Unfortunately, a lot of government agencies are feeling under pressure to make some sort of judgement call in the absence of good quality evidence. Public Health England has said that vaporisers are something they will promote to help people stop smoking, while Wales has taken a conservative approach and banned e-cigarettes from being used in public places. Northern Ireland has imposed restrictions on the strength and size of e-liquid tanks. These mixed messages are confusing to the public. To date, only a handful of health studies into e-cigarettes have been conducted, but bodies such as Public Health England are actively advocating vaporisers as a means of helping smokers to quit based on a single Cochrane review which only included two randomised trials, both of which had significant limitations. Professor George says that to make such claims with so little evidence is irresponsible. The Royal College of Physicians of London and ASH UK have endorsed PHE s stance but many more organisations have come to the opposite conclusion including the UK Faculty for Public Health, the British Medical Association, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organisation and even the European Commission. Approximately 6% of Britain s adult population use a vaporiser, with a survey showing that 51% of users did so because they believe it to be less harmful than regular cigarettes. Funded by a grant from the British Heart Foundation, the trial overseen by Professor George, known as VESUVIUS, has taken place over two years, with smokers split into three groups. One group continued to smoke cigarettes, while another was transferred to e-cigarettes with a trace of nicotine. A third group graduated to e-cigarettes with no nicotine content, with participants monitored over the course of a month with vascular testing before and after. With the trial having now concluded, Dr George is in the process of analysing the data before publishing his findings. He added, Our trial is only looking at one aspect of e-cigarettes, and that is how they impact on blood vessel health and how that might change if a person moves from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. The reason we are looking at this is to study the potential adverse effects on the cells lining blood vessels, a state called endothelial dysfunction, which is the earliest detectable adverse change in cardiovascular disease. We understand that this has been the largest e-cigarette trial thus far looking at vascular health. Whilst important mechanistically, our study is relatively small and that itself shows the dearth of information that currently exists with regards to e-cigarette safety, particularly from a cardiovascular point of view. Professor George s talk Are e-cigarettes safe for your arteries? takes place at Caf Science Dundee at 7pm on Monday 19 November. The event is held at Avery and Co. at 34 South Tay Street. Entry is free and all are welcome to attend. While there is no need to book in advance, early arrival is advised.

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