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Update on reports of UK health problems linked to vaping

Reports are now emerging from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the service that oversees the regulations of e-cigarettes and related products, that over the past five years they have received 74 reports of possible adverse reactions to vaping via the yellow card system, filed by public and healthcare professionals.

Of these, 49 of the reports were classified as serious, however the MHRA have revealed that, while they are reviewing these reports, there is currently no solid evidence showing a direct link between the adverse reactions reported and the use of an e-cigarette.

These reports have also coincided with the re-emergence  of a story of Mr Miller, a 57-year-old factory worker who died of Lipoid Pneumonia in 2011 although an inquest recorded an open verdict at the time.

Public Health England

Director of health improvement at Public Health England (PHE), Professor John Newton has been quick to reassure vapers with the following statement;

‘Smoking kills. Vaping saves lives… E-cigarettes are not safe; they are just much less harmful than smoking. A non-smoker who takes up vaping will harm their health but the smoker who switches to vaping gains massively. Health authorities have seized this opportunity by promoting vaping with great success, as smoking rates decline rapidly.’  

Public Health England have also expressed that the current situation in the US is strongly associated with the vaping of illicit substances such as cannabis oils and the cutting agent vitamin E acetate, this is something that is prohibited in the UK. They have stated that a health alert has not been issued, as they believe that the “evidence on the causes of the cases in the US is not yet conclusive”.

Professor John Newton has encouraged both smokers and current vapers not to be deterred by the reports from the US and to continue the use of an e-cigarette as a stop smoking aid. He states,

‘Smoking causes 200 premature deaths in England every day, but vaping has helped hundreds of thousands of smokers quit tobacco. The evidence remains clear that vaping isn’t risk-free but it is far less harmful than smoking. It would be tragic if smokers who could quit with the help of e-cigarettes did not do so because of false fears about their safety.’ 


The Director of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), John Dunne, has released a statement giving more context to the reports from MHRA, highlighting how few reports there are in comparison to the number of vapers, he said;

“It is vitally important to keep these reports in context. The MHRA themselves say that their yellow-card self-reporting system is not proof that the adverse effects were due to vaping, but a suspicion by people reporting ailments that they believe a vaping device may be the cause of. Different people can suffer adverse effects from a wide variety of products, from paracetamol to food allergies.

The fact that less than 15 reports have been made in each of the last five years from the UK’s 3.6 million vapers demonstrates the very high quality and standards that exist in the UK vaping market.

“Smoking causes more than 200 premature deaths in England every single day, and vaping has been proven to make it more likely that people will make that potentially life changing switch.

“As with all cases of this type, it’s important to look at the facts and evidence to avoid knee-jerk reactions which could have seriously detrimental public health effects in the future, including achieving the Government’s ambition for a smoke free future.

The link to vaping was not proven in the death of Mr Miller nearly ten years ago, when the regulatory regime in the UK was very different, and more research needs to be done to understand any potential link, both historic and with products on the market today.”


The MHRA have assured that all of these reports are being reviewed, and that they are not proof that the adverse effects reported were due to the use of e-cigarettes, but that this is a something the reporter suspects could have been related.

Speaking of the reports, Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies said that while the 200 adverse effects in the MHRA dossier must be taken seriously, they represented a small number compared with the illnesses caused by smoking traditional cigarettes. He also said:

“You have to set this in the context that every year we admit thousands of people to hospital with symptoms of pneumonia caused by smoking,”

ASH guidance

Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Action on Smoking Health (ASH) has stated that vapers in the UK…

“should not be scared back to smoking by the news of vaping illness in the US. Nor should smokers stick to smoking rather than switch to vaping. It is essential, however, to only use legal vapes bought from reputable suppliers in the UK and not source illicit unregulated products over the internet.”

ASH is a public health charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco. ASH only recommends vaping for smokers trying to quit or ex-smokers to prevent relapse. ASH advice to vapers is that:

  • Vaping isn’t completely risk-free but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco.
  • If you’ve switched to vaping and are finding it helpful to stop you smoking, and are not suffering any adverse effects, then carry on — don’t go back to smoking.
  • E-cigarettes on sale in the UK are regulated by the medicines regulator, the MHRA – when purchasing e-cigarettes you can check with the retailer whether their vaping products are notified/regulated products.
  • Vapers should only be buying from mainstream suppliers who are selling regulated products; using black market products may carry potentially lethal risks.
  • Anyone concerned about adverse effects from an e-cigarette they’re using should immediately report this to the MHRA, using the yellow card scheme.
  • If you’re experiencing serious adverse effects which you think are due to vaping, then stop vaping and get advice from your doctor