Two curious pieces of news this week, one about bots, the other about heart attacks.

It looks as if the bots, (not us humans) are having a whale of a time on twitter, discussing and waxing lyrical about the benefits of vaping, and they are doing it way more than we are. San Diego State University (SDSU) took data from Twitter in order to study the use of e cigarettes – as in who uses them, and their perceptions of them. It was while analysing the data that they realise around 70% of their data was produced by bots. They looked at nearly 200´000 tweets that mentioned e cigs, between Oct 2015 and Feb 2016. 2/3rds of the tweets were supportive, and 59% mentioning personal use. But then we come to the curious twist in the tail – as the article asked if the bots have been deliberately targeting teens? 

“The study found that 55% of tweets from Twitter users or bots the study identified as adolescent were positive in tone regarding e-cigarettes, a not-insignificant issue when 2 million middle- and high-school students reported using e-cigarettes within the last 30 days in a 2016 study.”

Remember, (reporting use in 30 days includes someone trying one puff). This research/article raises the question of how good is the analysis at recognising if these are really bots – because 70% of 200’000 is a lot of bots talking about e cigs, and if they are positive - who/what/where and why would anyone deliberately target teens? Could this be yet more of the propaganda war against e cigs?

Then we come to the heart attacks.

On reading the headline, the first thought was, how can a product, that is deemed 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, if used in conjunction with cigarettes increase the risk of heart attack fivefold? The answer is it doesn’t. Stanton Glanzt (this instantly raises red flag for us), has co-authored a study regarding dual use, and using the methodology that suits his hypothesis, the following is what occurred:

“The new analysis involved 69,452 people who were interviewed through National Health Interview Surveys in 2014 and 2016, a cross-sectional study in which in-person interviewers asked participants whether they had ever used e-cigarettes and/or cigarettes, and whether they had ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that they had had a heart attack.”

No timeframe, just have you had one? 

No – ‘since you have been both smoking and vaping (in which case we couldn’t tell the cause anyway – but hey, moving swiftly on) have you had a heart attack?’ Then neatly tucked away, so neatly tucked away that we know all the journalists will miss it we have this…

“The authors noted that it was not known whether the heart attacks occurred relative to e-cigarette use, and that some of the heart attacks that subjects reported are likely to have occurred before e-cigarettes became available in the U.S. (around 2009).”

What then, was the point of this research?

Dr Siegal writes, (and does his best to answer for us)

“Because this is a cross-sectional study, and because respondents were asked whether they had ever had a heart attack, one cannot determine whether the heart attacks followed e-cigarette use or preceded it. In other words, we do not know that vaping preceded the heart attack for any of the subjects. It is entirely possible that in most of these cases, the smokers suffered a heart attack and then started vaping in an attempt to quit smoking. In fact, I believe that is the most likely explanation for the observed study findings. It is not even biologically plausible that vaping could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease beyond that of smoking. Why? Because the cardiovascular effects of tobacco smoke saturate at a very low level, meaning that it takes only a little exposure to increase your risk. But beyond that, there is little additional risk. On the other hand, it is quite plausible that smokers make quit attempts after experiencing a heart attack and that in recent years, these quit attempts have often involved the use of e-cigarettes.”

So, there you have it, vaping bots having heart attacks.

We told you it was a curious week for e cigarette news.