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“Nicotine causes heart attacks”- one of the many criticisms against vaping. Stanton Glantz of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) released a study and claimed vapes were more likely to cause heart attacks than traditional cigarettes. That study was recently retracted by the Journal of the American Heart Association.
There were two issues brought up in the retraction of the article.
The first and larger issue was that researchers did not take into account when heart attacks occured or when users started vaping.
To show how that would alter the study, let’s imagine a smoker who has a heart attack. They then quit smoking and start vaping.
After switching to vaping, they do not experience any more heart attacks.
That person should be counted as a former smoker whose heart attack was not influenced by vaping. After all, the heart attack happened before they started vaping.
In the study, they were counted as a vaper who has had a heart attack. This led to Glantz’s claim that vaping was associated with heart attacks. Two other researchers, Brad Rodu and from Nantaporn Plurphanswat from University of Louisville, wrote to the Journal of the American Heart Association pointing out this flaw. Rodu ran the same calculations as Glantz, but reclassified subjects who had heart attacks before vaping. Their conclusion was that vapers were actually less likely to have heart attacks. The way Glantz reached his conclusion assumes that electronic cigarettes could cause heart attacks before users started vaping!
The second was that Stantz claimed in his blog that his study proved vaping causes heart attacks. Even if his calculations were accurate, his study would only prove that vaping was associated with a higher risk of heart attacks, not that vaping caused them.
The wording is small, but it made a major difference in how news outlets referred to the study. What his study would have proved was “Vapers have a higher risk of heart attacks. It could be vaping, it could be the fact that many are former smokers, or many other reasons.” However, he claimed that vaping was the cause of the increased heart attacks, which led to many news sources claiming that vaping put users at risk for heart attacks.
Although Stantz was given time to amend his article, he failed to do so. He claimed that he was “unable to access the PATH database,” PATH being the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health database used in the original study.
Although the studies were retracted, the damage will remain. Search up vaping and heart health, and you will find pages sites claiming that it is worse than smoking. If the misinformation is cleared, it may take years before that happens - time the vaping industry may not have.
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