We realise many of you will have seen the disturbing news stories coming from the USA, where there have been 380 cases of a respiratory disease reported among "otherwise healthy young people", which US officials claim are caused by vaping.
As a responsible and honest vaping business that takes the health and safety of our loyal customer base into constant consideration, we feel it is only right that we should inform you of the facts as we currently know them.
Firstly, we can be very clear that there have been no reported illnesses linked to vaping in the UK.
Secondly, in the US and much of the international media, there is no reasonable distinction between vaping products designed as a harm-reducing alternative to smoking and vaping illicit drugs.
The experts are telling us that all of the available evidence so far suggests that the unfortunate victims of this outbreak have been using black market THC (marijuana) vape products or other homebrew e-liquids. Some of these bootleg products contain synthetic cannabinoids like spice and are not products bought from or produced by reputable manufacturers, but in fact from street dealers.
Martin Dockrell, head of Tobacco Control at Public Health England has said,
“Unlike the US, all e-cigarette products in the UK are tightly regulated for quality and safety by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and they operate the yellow card scheme, encouraging vapers to report any bad experiences”.
From what we know, the most likely cause of the illness is Vitamin E Acetate. On September 5th, the New York State Dept of Health stated,
“Laboratory test results showed very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing samples analysed by the Wadsworth Center as part of this investigation. At least one vitamin E acetate containing vape product has been linked to each patient who submitted a product for testing”.
Vitamin E acetate is a common food additive that is used in topical skin treatments and is not known to cause any harm when ingested. However, it does have oil-like properties, which means that when vaped it is likely to cause the kinds of respiratory symptoms that have been reported – shortness of breath, chest pains, and coughing.
The Washington Post has reported that the FDA has stated that "nothing unusual" has been found in the nicotine-containing e-liquids that have been submitted to officials. However this is not being reported by the media, and it seems the key information wasn’t relayed to the president before he made his somewhat awkward announcement this week.
In the UK we have very robust regulations surrounding the production and distribution of vaping products. These regulations came into effect on May 20th, 2017, and are known throughout the EU as the Tobacco Products Directive or TPD. Once transposed and established within UK law, we named it the TRPR or Tobacco and Related Product Regulations.
We have a strict list of banned ingredients which includes anything with carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reprotoxic properties, formaldehyde, Diacetyl, and many more. There is an obligation to conduct emissions tests and create full toxicological dossiers on all nicotine-containing e-liquids. This information must be submitted to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency before the product can be placed on the market. This ensures that our consumers can have complete faith in the products that they are purchasing.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), has said,
“In Britain, you can check on the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) website whether the product you’re using has been notified and can be legally sold.”
Fortunately, here in the UK, our Public Health Experts have been quick to respond to these stories and allay any fears that vapers in the UK may have. Here is just a small selection of quotes from the last few days:
Paul Aveyard, a professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Oxford, said:
“These cases are worrying and need investigating but advice from all official bodies in the UK is that it is always preferable to vape than to smoke. These reports should not change that advice.”
John Newton, Director of Health Improvement for Public Health England said
“There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than completely switch to vaping”
Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies,
“Tobacco cigarettes cost the smoker one day of life for every four days they smoke,”
“It is by far in a way the most lethal legal product on the market. It’s inconceivable that e-cigarettes are as harmful as that.”
On the back of this story, Donald Trump himself had made a speech wherein he condemned vaping as not being ‘wonderful’ and stated that it is a threat to the children of America. Feeding off the same nonsense rhetoric that keeps circulating around the US media, with no actual evidence to support it, he’s decided that the root issue of underage vaping is the flavours.
I have said it many times, and I will say it again. The problem is not the use of flavours in e-liquids, the problem is retailers who are illegally selling these products to minors. Flavours are proven to be absolutely vital in helping smokers switch to vaping and stay away from combustible tobacco for good. Without them, far more people would fail in their switching attempts and the huge public health benefits that vaping provides would be hugely diluted.
We have strict laws about the sale of these products to minors. And much like tobacco and alcohol, it is not legal to sell vaping products to anyone under the age of 18. We should not be vilifying the products, but we should be vilifying the unscrupulous retailers who are knowingly selling them to children.
And I should add, in the UK we simply don’t have the problems being alleged in the US. In February 2019 Public Health England released figures which stated that while 1.7% of under 18’s have vaped weekly, the vast majority of these were already smoking. The number of young people using a vaping device that has never smoked is just 0.2%. The latest figures from the NHS actually show a decrease in youth uptake when compared to 2016.
Professor John Britton states,
“PHE has promoted electronic cigarettes as a health reduction strategy. The most recent figures on children aged 11 to 16 show continued linear decline in smoking. Although people are experimenting with e-cigarettes, it’s certainly not making them smokers.”
In the UK there are no plans to restrict flavours.
We will, of course, keep you updated with the story as it unfolds, but for now please be assured that the problems being experienced by our vaping friends over in the States are not problems in the UK and fortunately our public health professional’s stance on this topic is different to that of the US.