Now moving on to perhaps our more controversial project in the tobacco field, the e-cigarette study funded in 2015 by the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program. When I found out that this study had been funded, my research team almost had to give me oxygen because the critical aims of our study were going to be situated within a highly politicized and highly publicized controversy surrounding how we should be thinking about e-cigarettes within public health.

Image from "Still Blowing Smoke" campaign showing clod of vapor, titled "Health", text reads "Some call e-cigs healthier. Sure, if inhaling toxic chemicals sounds healthy to you. Read on to learn about the health risks of e-cigs, and find out why 'harmless water vapor' is the most inaccurate description ever."

From the California Department of Public Health’s “Still Blowing Smoke” campaign

On one side we have researchers, activists, and practitioners who may be described as taking a precautionary approach to e-cigarettes, which is essentially a “guilty until proven innocent” perspective, and I would argue that this perspective has great traction in California.10 At the time of funding for our project, there were a number of efforts to dissuade any use of e-cigarettes. For example, a highly visible media campaign refers to e-cig vapor as “toxic vapor” and that vaping is “still blowing smoke”. And this is pretty misleading given that even then, e-cigarettes were widely acknowledged to be much less harmful that combustible tobacco products like cigarettes.

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