If a group of people, in a foreign country, ate burgers containing ingredients known to cause serious sickness, and then got ill, would you worry about eating UK meat or using UK restaurants?
Probably not, especially if the UK government and scientists quickly stated the burgers responsible were contaminated, burger production was regulated much more strictly in the UK, and that people had been eating UK burgers for years without experiencing this illness.
But transfer this situation over to vaping, and that’s exactly what’s happening right now.
A recap of the situation so far
- After over a decade in which millions of people have been vaping, a sudden spate of respiratory illnesses breaks out in the USA, including six deaths at the time of writing.
- The evidence strongly suggests that this is linked to products bought on the black market, likely to be cannabis/THC containing liquids. It is highly likely that the cause is the use of oils in liquid, which is known to cause respiratory illness when inhaled.
- This is difficult to establish entirely because, as Professor Polosa pointed out recently, US vapers can face criminal prosecution and the loss of healthcare (at the time they need it most) if they admit to using illegal products containing THC.
- Public Health England, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and UK scientists have reiterated that vaping is strictly regulated in the UK, and that vaping is 95% safer than smoking.
- However, headlines unequivocally equate vaping with these illnesses, putting at threat the health of millions of people who have successfully switched to vaping, and smokers considering switching to vaping.
- Meanwhile, the USA have called for flavours to be banned, likely to cause more people to buy illegal products containing harmful substances that caused the harm in the first place.
Back to the UK
While I am sure that vaping products produced by reputable companies in the US are safe, the fact remains that the UK vaping industry is regulated differently.
There are strict rules on what can be put into UK e-liquid, and e-liquid must undergo emissions testing before being submitted to the MHRA.
Submitted products and submitting companies are listed on the MHRA website, and the MHRA operates a yellow card system to capture issues exactly like this one. Yet despite the fact that there are over three million of vapers in the UK, and the system has been operating for three years, there have been no reports of respiratory issues.
But still, a series of headlines is linking vaping to illness and death.
What are the consequences of this? While many former vapers have quit nicotine entirely, millions of people are using vapes as an alternative or to cut down on smoking, and millions more have yet to switch to vaping.
With, according to Public Health England, vaping being 95% safer than smoking, I’ve no doubt that these headlines will lead to many smokers dying years earlier.
These deaths in the USA are a tragedy, and go against the very thing that vaping is trying to achieve. It would also be a tragedy if vaping became a casualty when it has the potential to save so many lives.
So, while you should make sure you buy regulated e-liquid from reputable shops, don’t panic – and don’t go back to smoking combustible cigarettes!