Following the US reports of lung disease, Public Health England have published advice on e-cigarette use and whether they are safe to use.

The CDC’s findings

In mid-September, the news hit headlines about an outbreak of lung disease across the US that was suspected to be linked to vaping. There have now been over 1600 reported cases, including 34 deaths. The CDC has been investigating the situation and have identified that the cases are not linked to the long-term use of a nicotine e-cigarette, but are instead a rapid response to the use of unregulated THC containing products.

The outbreak has been found to have affected a very specific demographic, substantially young men in their early twenties. They have yet to identify the specific chemical that is causing illness, but have identified that the mains chemicals under suspicion are THC and Vitamin E acetate oil.

Could this happen in the UK?

Public Health England have made it very clear that the US reports are not linked to the long-term use of nicotine vaping products, but instead the vaping of substances which are not legal in the UK. However, just because these products are not legal does not mean that they are not available. The illicit drugs trade is global, and the e-liquids and pods used in the US found to have been linked to the reports were said to have been purchased off the street or from other informal sources, instead of legitimate and reputable vape shops or dispensaries in states where cannabis is legal. So, while they will not be available in the UK from reputable retailers, it cannot be said that they are not available at all. For this reason, PHE are advising to only use e-liquids and vaping products from legitimate retailers, and not to use any products claiming to contain THC or other illegal substances, as they will not have been subject to the regulations and testing that is industry standard and may be harmful.

PHE’s advice on e-cigarettes

PHE are emphasising that their advice and recommendations pertaining to e-cigarettes has not changed in light of the US reports. The evidence is clear that the incidents are not linked to vaping the nicotine vaping products that are used by 3 million UK e-cigarette users. While vaping has not been proven to be completely risk free, and new research is constantly being undertaken, e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking, and are by far a better alternative to continuing to smoke tobacco products. It is important that the products that have caused illness in the US are recognised to be completely different to standard nicotine containing vaping products that are sold in reputable vape stores across the UK, and that the US reports do not deter smokers from making the switch to an e-cigarette, or cause current vapers to discontinue the use of their e-cigarette and risk reverting back to smoking cigarettes.

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