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Recently Dr Chris Russell, Senior Research Fellow for the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, requested assistance from vapers in completing a survey on perceptions and experiences of using electronic cigarettes. The survey produced a somewhat mixed response! Sarah Jakes spoke to Chris last week to learn more.

By Sarah Jakes

I often hear the question asked "Why do we need more research on e-cigarettes?". It is true that there is already a vast amount of research on the subject, whether or not those who are against them want to admit it. Unfortunately there are also questions which regulators around the world want answers to, and any absence of credible science allows opponents to fill the vacuum with doubt and propaganda.

It is important therefore, that as vapers we support studies which aim to inform these research gaps. No matter how much we try to tell our stories as consumers, until such information is presented in the format of a peer reviewed study we will always be dismissed as anecdotes. Although the peer review and publishing process has limitations of its own, it is still the widely accepted standard for evidence.

Vapers are right to be suspicious of the motives of some researchers. I was as suspicious as anyone when I saw Dr Chris Russell's survey on perceptions and experiences of using electronic cigarettes, so I spoke to Chris for an hour and a half last week to try to get a handle on what was behind the questions. This was the result:

There a couple of reasons the questions seem a bit 'off' to experienced vapers. Firstly, they are aiming for 10,000 responses world wide. Many of those responders will be cigalike users. It is very difficult to design a manageable survey that suits all users in a diverse market like this. Another reason is because these are the questions which have been identified as being those which regulators want answers to. Remember, that's not just UK regulators, it is regulators across the world.

Chris is very keen that we should take full advantage of the comment boxes. If a question seems stupid / irrelevant / leading, he would like vapers to use the box to say why. Remember, these are questions that somewhere in the world regulators want answers to - if there's a reason why a question isn't worth asking this is the opportunity to explain why.

As with all research it is important that not only the researchers but also the research itself displays no pre-existing biases. So in the best research you will see issues raised which appear on the face of it could be used to support an anti ecig agenda. This is a good thing - it lessens the ability of opponents to criticise and leaves the data to speak for itself.

The fact that Nicoventures funded this research will of course be used against it by those who prefer to dismiss anything that has any connection with the tobacco industry. I wonder who exactly they expect to fund research into a consumer product other than those who, let's face it, seek to profit from it? Shouldn't we expect all of the industry to contribute to research, or should we just leave it to the those who are opposed to e-cigarettes to do? 

The important thing for me in my call to Chris was to establish that he a) had no pre-existing bias against ecigs, that b) he wouldn't skew the results in the funder's favour, and that c) he was aware of the cherry picking undertaken by opponents and would be prepared to fight for a fair interpretation of his data. I was satisfied on all counts. You, of course, should make up your own mind - Chris will be appearing on VTTV tonight, ask him questions, satisfy yourself, and if you havent already, take and share the survey.

Link to vapourtrails TV, the programme starts at 9pm, today, 21st of May and will be available on catch up: http://www.vapourtrails.tv/?page_id=41

The programme is now available on catch up here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=o3GhNMilz1k

Link to the survey: http://www.nicotinesurveys.org/uk-us-canada/informed-consent-form/

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