H/T Jay R, Michael Siegel on e-cigarette research:
While the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) has repeatedly claimed that it is intending to regulate e-cigarettes based on the results of scientific research, a close examination of the CTP’s research portfolio reveals that the agency is heavily funding research on the potential risks of e-cigarettes but does not have a single long-term clinical trial to evaluate the potential benefits of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation.
It is great to claim to be evidence-based, but if the only evidence you produce is about the risks and none about the benefits, you can’t help but conclude that the identified risks outweigh the benefits. And this appears to be exactly how the CTP has stacked the deck.
This bias is apparent even in the CTP’s description of its e-cigarette research. In terms of research priorities regarding e-cigarettes, this is how CTP describes them:
“E-cigarette initiation, use (including transitions to other tobacco products and multiple use), perceptions, dependence, and toxicity.”
There’s a lot here about potential risks, including youth initiation, dual use, gateway to tobacco product usage, dependence, and toxicity. However, there’s nothing here about the potential benefits, such as effectiveness in getting people off cigarettes!
Then, if you examine the current research on e-cigarettes that CTP is funding, you will find plenty of studies on the potential risks of e-cigarettes, but not a single clinical trial that examines the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation or reduction over more than a three-week period.
Thus, the deck is stacked against e-cigarettes. The research will reveal many risks but it cannot possibly identify the most important potential benefit: long-term usefulness in smoking cessation, potentially at a level that exceeds that for current FDA-approved therapies. There’s simply no way to find out without conducting such a clinical trial, yet none is being funded by CTP.
Given this heavily biased research agenda, there is no way that the CTP will be able to come up with any conclusion other than that e-cigarette risks outweigh their benefits.
Unfortunately, this is not an objective research plan. Although each individual study, taken separately, may be valid research, the plan as a whole is heavily biased. This story shows how one can bias research results not necessarily by altering the results of a single study, but by crafting a research agenda that stacks the deck toward the desired finding.
Well, yes, if you only consider the risks, and disregard any benefits, you’re stacking the deck in favour of the desired conclusion: that the risks of e-cigarettes outweigh their benefits.
But this is nothing new. E-cigarette ‘research’ is simply replicating the tried-and-tested methods of tobacco ‘research’. For when do antismoking researchers ever admit that the are any benefits whatsoever in smoking cigarettes, while they come up with an ever-lengthening list of disorders and diseases supposedly caused by smoking?
And, of course, Michael Siegel was one of those antismoking researchers, so he knows all about how it’s done.
As did some of the commenters, like Harry:
“This story shows how one can bias research results not necessarily by altering the results of a single study, but by crafting a research agenda that stacks the deck toward the desired finding.”
Gee, doctor, just like many of those meta-studies you’ve endorsed all these years!
Anyway, rather laughably, the only benefit that Siegel seems to be able to see in e-cigarettes is their ability to get people off cigarettes – which they do by largely replicating the (beneficial) experiences of smoking.
I seldom look in on Michael Siegel’s blog these days. He’s really just another antismoking zealot. I’ve got no time for such people any more. I’m not sure I ever did. And it surprises me that he continues to attract so many smoker readers, who continue to write caustic comments, none of which he ever appears to read.