In the UK alone, 78,000 people die from smoking cigarettes – making up 16 per cent of all deaths. In line with the NHS’ anti-smoking strategy, e-cigarettes are actively encouraged as a smoking cessation aid.
Why then, when you open any news article covering e-cigarettes, are you bombarded with warning after warning about the dangers of vaping products? Is the NHS trying to endanger their own populace, or could it be possible that the media is misleading the public?
Recently, medical authorities in the US began reporting cases of lung disease in patients with reported use of vaping products. Currently, this figure is at 1,080 lung injury cases, with 18 deaths spread across 10 states. San Francisco effectively banned the sale of all e-cigarettes in June, and the Trump administration is moving to enact a ban on flavoured vaping products.
Unsurprisingly, one noticeable player in the game, unscathed by this legislation, is Big Tobacco. As long as this “mystery” lung disease is running rampant across the country, the government would seemingly rather people continue smoking cigarettes. And guess who would benefit the most from that?
However, the fact of the matter is not that mysterious. Of all of the patients in the US, a vast majority have self-reported the use of THC- containing products, with only 17 per cent reporting exclusive use of nicotine-containing products. The disease stemming from hospitals is lipoid pneumonia – a condition caused by the inhalation of fat particles, with vitamin E specifically in the crosshairs. Nicotine e-cigarettes simply do not contain these types of oils, especially not those produced and regulated in the UK. THC and CBD, on the other hand, are not water-soluble, and are often combined with an oil, like vitamin E, when used in vape-products. According to the CDC, the oil inhalation associated with THC- containing products is the leading suspect for this outbreak.
In the UK, a yellow card scheme has been in place since 2016 for e-cigarettes. This means that any reported side effects of their use can be easily reported and quickly investigated. Since the creation of this scheme, there have been zero cases of a vaping-related illness in this country. Public Health England and other official bodies in the UK have maintained that vaping in the UK is not relatable to the current outbreak across the Atlantic.
Another concern in the US is a rise in the use of e-cigarettes among youths. The latest figures show that about 20 per cent of 14 to 18-year-olds in the US are using vaping products regular – ly, compared to 1.6 per cent of a similar age group in the UK. This can easily be boiled down to advertising regulations. Where advertising is regulated, there is a clear pattern of lower teen use. For example, Juul, the US’ largest vaping company, only recently shuttered its social media presence, and studies show that when their Instagram was running, 55 per cent of that content was related to youth lifestyle trends. In the UK, advertising for any tobacco product is highly regulated and almost non-existent, leading to much fewer teen e-cigarette users.
Vaping is not safe, and it is not risk free. A non-smoker should never consider picking up vaping, but a blanket ban on its sale will only make it more difficult for current smokers to quit and improve their quality of life. It is simply irresponsible to use a successful smoking cessation aid as a scapegoat, when a lack of regulation and a thriving black market for these products is really to blame.