New Vaping hysteria

Image © Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

The news is currently full of stories about people dying from vaping, without actually going into much detail, and so the sensationalist press are saying all vaping can kill you. Following on from my blog ‘Vaping – the truth. Kind of. So far…’, I thought try to inject a little sanity into the ‘debate’.

To date, 26 people have died of ‘vaping-related illnesses’, in an ‘outbreak’ that at the moment is confined to the US, where so far around 1300 cases have been confirmed.

It is as yet not totally certain what all the victims were vaping, but the large majority of them seem to have been vaping THC, or cannabis oil, and many of the liquids tested contained vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E oil is commonly used in food, but it’s not meant to be inhaled, and indeed the lungs of the victims seem to have been clogged up with a fatty substance deemed to be oils formed by the inhaled vape vapour recondensing, and they therefore suffered from acute respiratory failure, and a form of Lipid Pneumonia. The FDA in America has issued an update on the case, for the avoidance of doubt:

Vaping Illness Update: FDA Warns Public to Stop Using Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-Containing Vaping Products and Any Vaping Products Obtained Off the Street

But reports that are suggesting that the Vegetable Glycerin and Propylene Glycol commonly used to make ‘proper’ vape liquid are to blame are wrong. They’re not. VG and PG are not oils, they’re sugar-based alcohols, and as such can’t cause lipid pneumonia. The problem for the victims seems to be that they were inhaling vapour created by heating oils, and seemingly oils making up so-called street vapes, ie unregulated ‘home-made’ vape juice.

Of course, no-one can say vaping is safe – putting anything into your lungs isn’t safe, including breathing in the air as you walk along the street. But for now, the advice seems simple – in order to minimise the risks of vaping, don’t vape oil, just vape VG and PG-based juice, and buy it from proper, government-regulated retailers and not from dodgy street vendors!


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