Errors are disturbingly common in e-cigarette research, resulting in misinformation and distortion of scientific truth, according to a new study.
Under the guidance of Cother Hajat of the United Arab Emirates University and Riccardo Polosa, founder of the Center of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR) at the University of Catania, a team of international researchers examined the 24 most frequently cited vaping studies published in medical journals.
The researchers found almost all of the examined studies to be methodologically flawed. Among other shortcomings, the studies lacked a clear hypothesis, used inadequate methodology, failed to collect data relevant to the study objectives and did not correct for obvious confounding factors.
“Most of the included studies utilized inappropriate study design and did not address the research question that they set out to answer. In our paper, we offer practical recommendations that can massively improve the quality and rigor [of] future research in the field of tobacco harm reduction,” said Hajat.
“Systematic reiteration of the same errors that result in uninformative science is the new pandemic,” said Polosa. “I’m astounded that such low-quality studies have made it through editorial review in prestigious scientific journals. The credibility of tobacco control scientists and their research is on the line.”
The findings are concerning, according to the academics, because without methodologically valid scientific research, it is impossible to generate balanced and accurate information for the adoption of more effective tobacco control policies and healthier lifestyles. “The dissemination of inaccurate information about combustion-free alternatives in the news media contributes to public skepticism and uncertainty, particularly among smokers,” the center wrote in a press release. “Many smokers may be discouraged from switching to less harmful nicotine-delivery products as a result of this.”
This investigator-initiated study was sponsored by ECLAT, a spin-off of the University of Catania, with the help of a grant from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which in turn is backed by Philip Morris International.