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Home » Beware of the ‘Illusions of Understanding’ when Research depends too much on AI

Beware of the ‘Illusions of Understanding’ when Research depends too much on AI

Dr. Marina Murphy, Scientific Adviser to the UKVIA, in response to research on the hazardous health risks from flavoured vapes. May 2024


Chemicals in vapes could be highly toxic when heated, research finds | Vaping | The Guardian

This is a computer-based modelling exercise using Artificial Intelligence. Only this month, an article in the highly prestigious journal Nature (Artificial Intelligence and Illusions of Understanding in Scientific Research, Nature 627, 49-58 (2024), warned against the ‘illusions of understanding’ created when researchers depend on AI to do more, while understanding less.

E-cigarettes have been around for nearly 20 years and millions of smokers have used them to switch.

The effect of overheating e-liquids has been studied extensively.  This can lead to the production of  carbonyls, for example, but these compounds make the vapour so caustic as to be un inhalable.  Newer e-cigarettes devices are designed with built-in temperature control systems.

Vapers want to have access to a large variety of flavours, they also want to be reassured that they are as safe as they can be. That’s not to say that anything goes, because it doesn’t.  If anything, this and other work confirms that there is great variation in e-liquids and the flavours used in them.  It is right to understand what happens to the e-liquid and that they be subject to thorough toxicological risk assessment and tested at different levels of exposure.

Producing scary headlines that could see smokers thinking of switching to an e-cigarette deciding to just keep smoking and vapers returning to smoking, is not helpful however.

Vaping has proven to be the most popular quit aid, and we need to focus less on problems and more on solutions to ensure that vapers continue to get the flavours they need to successfully quit cigarettes in the safest way possible.

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