Whether in vaping or another industry, the importance of scientific studies is almost immeasurable. Proper research can lead us toward answers that we simply could not get otherwise. Sometimes these studies can lead us to new questions, a better understanding of the subject matter, or definitive answers to specific questions. Conversely, though, a bad report can lead things in the wrong direction, especially when it comes to public opinion. The worst part of it all is that it’s not exclusively bad scientific work that can end up hurting the cause. Because of this, here are a couple things to consider next time you see a headline about a new report about the effects of vapor.
As is taught many times in school, scientific experiments start with a question and an answer that they expect to gain. In vaping we see this most often in regards to the effects of vapor. These scientific studies usually follow the same pattern of gathering information, whether by polling or experimenting, writing up a report, and publishing that report into a scientific journal. Only upon publication do the findings of the research become viewable by anyone other than those conducting the study.
Therein lies the biggest problem of them all: even a well-conducted, well-meaning study’s findings are only legitimized when the results can be and are replicated. Replication of a study can only be accomplished after publication, and usually a significant time after at that. In science, if findings cannot be reproduced, the published report loses credibility. Because vaping research is still in its early stages, many of the reports making headlines have not had the opportunity to be either disproven or defended. Often times, too, the subsequent findings fail to make as big of a splash, no matter the conclusion.
Equally as important as the originality of the study are the conditions and parameters of the study itself. This requires a bit more investigation on the part of the reader, but it’s essential in understanding whether the headline leading to that report did their homework on it or not. We’ve seen this a number of times in vaping. Some of these have been called out for using unrealistic conditions after the fact, but often the headlines have already been printed. The reasoning behind this is much less sinister than it may seem but is still very problematic; it often, but not always, breaks down to those conducting the experiments having a lack of intimate knowledge of how most people actually vape.
For one example, a study conducted that produces vapor at a much higher voltage than realistic to vaping, effectively testing dry hits for the entire experiment. This is where replication studies came in and refuted original findings on more than one occasion. In these instances, those reading the details of the study had an issue with the way it was conducted but could do little else than voice displeasure, but the published study had some hard facts, regardless of methodology in gathering them.
Naturally, not everyone does this type of investigation into these reports. For those of us who want to know what’s really happening in our industry, though, it’s necessary. Still, though, there’s one final significant bit of information that is important to scientific findings that is not always easy to find: who funded the study? Issues with this particular question most often pop up in the food industry but are not exclusive to it. Much like a company with a vested interest in sugar might fund a study skewed towards proving it’s not as harmful as we’ve thought, other industries have fallen victim to entities trying to sway opinions in one direction or another. For the vaping industry, it’s easy to imagine these vapor studies being skewed certain ways, so it remains a fact to consider when reading about any headline-worthy findings, just to be safe.
For those who are looking to find out whether the results of published scientific research match the headline highlighting the same study is as simple as doing some additional reading. Because we care about the vaping industry, we’re often doing just that any time negative or positive results are put out in the press. Doing so helps us gain a better understanding than simply glossing over headlines, and we recommend vapers do the same anytime they see the scientific community claiming something, whether it is good or bad.
Thank you for reading our article: Beyond The Headlines: Reading into Scientific Vapor Studies. If you have questions or comments chime in below.