Recently, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, ITV and several other news outlets have carried stories about UK vapers running the risk of contracting ‘popcorn lung’ – an inflammatory lung disease. Is this genuine, do electronic cigarettes and UK E-Liquids really pose this risk to people who have swapped away from tobacco?
Betteridge’s Law of Headlines
Betteridge’s law of headlines says: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”
There you have it, there’s no risk.
But What Did The Newspapers & TV Say About Popcorn Lung?
The Mail said that “95% of people who develop severe ‘popcorn lung’ as a result of vaping will DIE within five years of developing the disease”.
The Express said: “millions of people who vape in the UK could be at risk of developing popcorn lung”.
A TV doctor told ITV’s This Morning vaping is “associated with gum disease. There are lots of other concerns that are starting to bubble. The most concerning are lung injuries. There’s a condition popcorn lung. It’s an inflammatory lung disease that can occur as a result of vaping.”
This Sounds Terrible, Why Did You Mention Betteridge’s Law?
Aha, because the media has forgotten to mention a couple of very important points.
Well, let’s start at the beginning…
What Is Popcorn Lung?
Popcorn lung is a disease that is officially known as bronchiolitis obliterans. It got its name because it was discovered by factory workers at a popcorn factory. They had been breathing in a chemical that makes the popcorn taste buttery.
The disease can only be identified by having a lung scan or a sample taken of part of a lung. It is an irreversible disease and treatment only works to slow down its debilitating symptoms.
What Chemical Causes Popcorn Lung?
The chemical is called Diacetyl. This compound is added to many foods that need a buttery or creamy texture in the mouth.
Diacetyl is what causes popcorn lung.
So, They Are Saying That Diacetyl Is In UK E-Liquid?
That’s precisely what they are claiming.
Absolutely not. You heard me. There is no diacetyl in any legal UK e-liquid.
You used to find small quantities of it in custard-style vape juices but then all the independent producers decided to stop using those flavour agents following a scientific study and public statement by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos in 2013.
Following that, The UK government legislated against the inclusion of diacetyl in e-liquid manufacture – it’s officially banned.
Did Anyone Get Popcorn Lung When It Was In E-Liquid?
Again, no. Diacetyl is found in cigarette smoke. The levels that used to be found in e-liquid were substantially lower than that in tobacco smoke. Like, a really lot lower – and here’s the interesting bit, not one cigarette smoker has ever been diagnosed with popcorn lung.
I’m Confused. Why Are These Outlets Saying There Is A Risk?
Again, a very good question.
The problem comes from the source of the story, Johns Hopkins University. They receive funding from a rich man who is ideologically opposed to tobacco harm reduction and vaping – no matter the scientific evidence.
But You Could Be Lying, David…
Don’t take my word for it – go see what Public Health England/ UK Health Security Agency says: