US Vaping-related illnesses: What are the facts?

Amid cries of an ‘epidemic’ following a spate of vaping-related illnesses and increased scrutiny of the US vaping industry, we look at the facts and how the situation may affect vapers in the UK…

E-cigarettes and vaping have been the subject of huge debate in the United States of America over the past month as a result of at least 1080 people falling sick with vaping-related illnesses or lung injuries.

Eighteen deaths have been confirmed across 15 states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the country’s federal health protection agency. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has launched a criminal investigation in parallel with the CDC’s public health investigation and the US Congress have begun hearings to investigate e-cigarettes’ effects on public health.

The executive branch of the US government has also weighed in. "It's not a wonderful thing," said US President Donald Trump of vaping. "It's got big problems. We have to find out the extent of the problem." Citing parallel concerns with the reported rise in youth vaping, the President announced that he would be taking steps to ban the sale of flavoured e-cigarette products, except for tobacco and menthol flavours.

The panic about the health effects of vaping has not been confined to the United States alone. Last month India banned the sale and import of e-cigarettes, citing an "epidemic" of vaping among young people, while countries such as Brazil and Japan have already outright banned or heavily restricted the sale of e-cigarette or nicotine products.

What was the cause of the illness?

The CDC have affirmed that no single e-cigarette or vaping product, brand or specific substance has been definitively linked to the outbreak in the US. And while authorities still don’t know the precise cause of the lung illnesses, most of the cases have been linked to the use of illicit black-market products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. About 77% of those cases being investigated by the CDC reported using THC-containing products.

Many of these black market and unregulated THC e-liquid products have been found to contain an oil derived from Vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E acetate is commonly found as a nutritional supplement and is considered harmless when ingested orally or applied to the skin. However, experts say that its molecular structure and oil-like properties make it hazardous to inhale, such as you would with an e-cigarette, and could cause the kind of respiratory symptoms that many of the patients have reported such as chest pains, coughing and shortness of breath.

While the FDA investigates the THC market, both legitimate and illicit, health officials’ advice to e-cigarette users in North America has been to avoid using nicotine or THC containing-products if they’re concerned, but also that current vapers should not switch back to smoking cigarettes.

Are vapers at risk in the UK?

There have been no reports so far of any person in the UK exhibiting the same symptoms as those in the US, leading many health experts in the UK and EU to reiterate their position that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking cigarettes, as well as highlighting the differences in e-cigarette regulations found on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Unlike the US, the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive of 2016 restricts the advertising of e-cigarette products and enforces a cap on the levels of nicotine and the capacity of devices available to consumers. Further, the rules and regulations surrounding the production of e-liquids enforces supervised, laboratory environments and limits the manufacture and sale of devices and e-liquid to accredited suppliers and producers only. Under the TPD, the production of any THC-containing e-liquids is strictly illegal.

Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Programme Lead at Public Health England, said: “We know that e-cigarettes are probably not completely safe, but that’s not the issue. The question is, are e-cigarettes safer than the alternative? And, for almost all e-cigarette users the alternative is smoking, and it's really important that they understand how much safer e-cigarettes are, compared to smoking".

In 2015, PHE claimed that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and are supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Medical Association and Cancer Research UK among other institutions.

What should you do if you have concerns about vaping?

-Only buy e-cigarette devices and e-liquid from reputable, TPD-compliant manufacturers and suppliers such as Vapestore.

-Talk to one of our professional customer services specialists for advice and guidance on all aspects of e-cigarettes and vaping at support@vapouriz.com or call 0800 644 0000.

-Talk to your GP or another certified health professional about using e-cigarettes.