We have recently seen a number of sensational headlines appearing in the UK media warning vapers about a mysterious lung illness sweeping the USA which has resulted in a number of fatalities. “E-cigarette users warned stop vaping NOW as FIFTH person dies of mysterious lung condition” and “Fifth death from mysterious lung illness linked to vaping” are just a small selection of the irresponsible and completely misleading headlines published through UK media channels.
Let us immediately set the record straight, the cluster of incidents reported in the US are completely unrelated to the use of lawfully marketed nicotine-containing e-cigarette products. The reported incidents have been linked to the use of illicit “e-liquids” containing THC (marijuana extract) oils and Vitamin E acetate. E-cigarette users can have absolute confidence that it is safe for them to continue to vape when they purchase their products from a reputable retailer.
Martin Dockrell of Public Health England quotes,
"Our advice remains that e-cigarettes are a fraction of the risk of smoking, and using one makes it much more likely you’ll quit successfully than relying on willpower alone".
Let’s examine in more detail the truth hidden behind the misleading and irresponsible headlines.
The FDA releases a Statement
The recent cluster of cases reported in the US of lung injury follows over a decade of wide-spread e-cigarette use without any reports of similar adverse reactions. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has released a statement on their investigation into the suspected cause of the recent incidents. The FDA has confirmed that many of the samples tested as part of their investigation contained high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive component of the marijuana plant), and most samples also contained significant quantities of Vitamin E acetate.
At least one of the samples was reported to be comprised of 50 % Vitamin E acetate, a substance present in topical consumer products & dietary supplements but with very limited data on inhalation effects. Despite the legalisation of the recreational use of cannabis in a number of US states the reported ingredients are illegal for use in vaping products, and are of course illegal in the highly regulated UK and European markets.
The FDA statement is a welcome, if long overdue clarification on the true cause of the reported lung injuries. However, this has not prevented anti-vaping organisations from obscuring the truth and continuing to try and blame this cluster of incidents on legal, nicotine-containing vaping products that have been on the market for years without causing any such adverse effects.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged at least one of the reported incidents has been associated with the use of “bootleg” THC oils, yet inexplicably has continued its public attack on the lawful vaping industry whilst protecting the distribution of unregulated psychoactive THC marijuana “e-liquids” containing high levels of Vitamin E acetate thickening agents! The consequence of this irresponsible position from an organisation charged with the protection of public health in the US is vapers will revert back to smoking, a practise which kills 1 in 2 long term users.
UK Health Experts’ opinions
UK public health experts have been unified in their response to the reported incidents in the US, reassuring vapers that all e-cigarette products in the UK are tightly regulated for quality and safety by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency (MHRA). Whilst the incidents in the US must always be investigated, the advice from all bodies in the UK is that it is always preferable to vape than to smoke. These reports, and the associated flagrantly misleading media headlines, do not change that advice.