Evidence use in E-cigarettes debates: scientific showdowns in a ‘wild west’ of research


Against a backdrop of declining tobacco use, e-cigarette markets are growing. The UK now has a higher percentage of e-cigarette users than any other European country.

These developments have prompted fierce discussions in scientific, advocacy and policy communities about how best to respond. This article is one of the first to examine the role of evidence in these debates.

We analysed 121 submissions to two Scottish policy consultations on e-cigarettes (in 2014 and 2015) and undertook interviews with 26 key informants in 2015–2016, following up with a sub-set in 2019–2020. All data were thematically coded, and our analysis was informed by insights from policy studies and the sociology of science.

First, we affirm previous research in suggesting that e-cigarettes appeared to have triggered a breakdown of old public health alliances. Second, we demonstrate that, amid concerns about research quality and quantity, actors are guided by normative outlooks (and/or economic interests) in their assessments of evidence.

Read full article here.

Katherine E. Smith, Theresa Ikegwuonu, Heide Weishaar & Shona Hilton
BMC Public Health – Feb 16, 2021.

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