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Vaping News - The Facts
You may be aware of the recent articles in the media relating to vaping and specifically ‘vape related’ illness in the USA. We understand that the current media coverage may be unsettling for you, but rest-assured that you can continue to make your vaping purchases with us without concern. These stories have been widely mis-reported and sensationalised and have missed out vital information which is very misleading. We would like to present the correct information, the full story, not just parts of it!
The real story, in a nutshell, is that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have identified that these cases are linked to black market cannabis products – THC carts - and not by vaping nicotine e-liquid.
Unfortunately, the media have largely chosen to omit the THC element of the story and focus on how these illegal black-market products are consumed, namely by vaping them. It’s not vaping that has caused the issues, it’s what is being vaped that’s the problem!
We would like to reassure all of our customers, and anyone considering switching to vaping from smoking, that all of the e-liquids we sell are fully compliant with EU and UK regulations and have been tested and approved.
In the UK vaping nicotine e-liquid is significantly safer than smoking and this is supported by the UK’s leading public health bodies. All UK e-cigarette products are tightly regulated for quality and safety by MHRA. It’s important to use UK-regulated e-liquids and never risk vaping illicit e-liquids or adding substances, any of which could be harmful.
Below are some facts and questions answered by the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) which you may find helpful and interesting. IBVTA have further information on their website, click here to read their press release which goes into more detail.
Might vaping in the UK cause the same issues as seen in the US?
No. The UK has a legitimate, credible and responsible vaping industry, which has been subject to stringent regulatory requirements for over three and a half years now. Responsible businesses operate on an open book basis and act collaboratively with regulators to make sure that they are selling the safest, legal products possible to their customers.
The US authorities are issuing statements and warnings about "e-cigarettes" and "vaping", but what is the real story?
The real story is that all the evidence is currently suggesting that these illnesses have been caused by the use of black market cannabis products - THC carts - not by vaping nicotine e-liquid.
THC is a cannabinoid which gives the user the "high" associated with marijuana use. In the US, in states which have legalised cannabis and indeed in others where it remains illegal, some people engage in "dabbing", a slang term for using marijuana oils in vape-like devices specially designed for the purpose. The terminology used by cannabis users for these products varies, but "carts" is one of the most common terms. This is not the same activity as using an e-cigarette with liquids made from alcohol-based diluents like propylene glycol, glycol and nicotine – the ingredients in a commercially available vaping product.
When did these issues arise?
The first reports emerged at the beginning of August. By the 3rd week of August there were at least five State public health departments who had already identified that THC products were implicated in the cases they were investigating. The US Food and Drug Administration have now specifically warned the public about the use of THC cannabis products.
Isn’t cannabis legal in some US states?
Yes, and in states where cannabis is legalised, regulated dispensaries are highly controlled. In the majority of cases these outbreaks are happening in states where cannabis remains prohibited. Black market operators buy disposable "carts" and fill them with THC oil and may either use counterfeit packaging to disguise them as legal products, or package them as "Dank Vapes". Dank Vapes is not a brand, but a packaging.
What’s in the products that’s causing people to be ill?
That is not yet fully clear. When THC is extracted from the cannabis plant, extraction methods vary in the type of agents used. What’s known to date is that some black market operators ‘dilute’ the liquid they are using to fill the carts with, thereby using less of the expensive ingredient, but disguising this by using thickening agents. These thickening agents lead the user to believe these carts are of a ‘higher quality’ or potency than they are.
The US authorities have so far suggested that Vitamin E acetate is being used as a thickening agent, as it is one substance common in the products they have tested to date. Other experts have said there may be other contaminants which are causing these respiratory injuries, and pesticides used in the growing of the cannabis plant are also being investigated.
Is vaping nicotine causing these incidents?
No. Some of the people involved have reported that they were using e-cigarettes as well as or at the same time as THC oil. Others may not be informing health professionals of their THC use because they fear the consequences or discomfort in admitting buying illicit products. Dr Micheal Siegel has suggested that in their advice to health professionals, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been irresponsible and negligent because they are not recommending that doctors test people who present with suspected cases specifically for THC. He says:
"The glaring omission in the CDC's recommendations for clinicians is that they failed to recommend that clinicians conduct a sensitive urine drug screen for THC in every patient. This is the only way to determine with reasonable accuracy whether a patient used a THC-containing product. Simply relying on self-reports is not sensitive enough because many youths will understandably hide the fact that they were using an illicit, black market drug that was essentially obtained from drug dealers. Every patient needs to be tested for THC. The failure to recommend this testing indicates to me that the CDC is not serious about really wanting to be able to invoke THC oils as a cause of these illnesses if they truly are the cause. By not recommending this testing, the CDC is ensuring that there is no way that THC will be implicated in every case. This, by definition, will leave open the possibility that traditional e-cigarettes are causing some of the cases, allowing the CDC to emphasize that people should not use e-cigarettes!"
Why are the media in Britain and the US getting the reporting of this so wrong?
In some cases, it is a simple case of biases against e-cigarettes and vaping. Others, especially in this country, are simply choosing to reprint the misleading and irresponsible statements from US Federal agencies to avoid or stop using "e-cigarettes".
This is irresponsible for two reasons; because cannabis users don't use the same terminology as nicotine vapers and by health authorities doing so they knowingly cause the link between vaping nicotine and using THC to be confused in the minds of the public, and because by not making clear the distinction between the activity - vaping, and the substance being inhaled - black market, tainted THC oil, they are not properly informing the public on the specific substance - black market, tainted THC oil - that should be avoided.
What about lipoid pneumonia, which I’ve seen in the papers recently?
Lipoid pneumonia is caused by a build up of oils, or lipids, in the lungs. Some of the early reports of the US THC oil issue specifically mention cases of lipoid pneumonia. The ingredients in liquids in the UK by regulation, cannot contain lipids, and it would be inaccurate to suggest that the e-liquid available on the UK market are proven to cause lipoid pneumonia. As Professor Ann McNeill, professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London, told The Independent newspaper recently, because vegetable glycerine is an alcohol and not a lipid, it "doesn’t really add up".
What are UK public health experts advising?
Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said:
"Authorities who are reacting to these cases by advising no one to vape are by default sending the message to people who have quit smoking through vaping that they should return to tobacco. This is misleading, and potentially irresponsible. Authorities in the USA should be prioritising confirming the causes and addressing this illicit market, not pushing people back to smoking which we know carries multiple risks to health."
Public Health England have reaffirmed that their position and advice on vaping has not changed:
"In light of the current wave of anti-vaping hysteria coming from the US, vapers and smokers here should be aware that the position of Public Health England has not shifted.
Our advice on e-cigarettes remains unchanged - vaping isn't completely risk free but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco. There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping.
All UK e-cigarette products are tightly regulated for quality and safety by MHRA. It's important to use UK-regulated e-liquids and never risk vaping home-made or illicit e-liquids or adding substances, any of which could be harmful.
Smoking kills thousands every year and creating a smokefree generation is one of our top priorities. Vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking and makes it much more likely you’ll quit successfully than relying on willpower alone. The sooner you stop smoking completely the better."
Dr Lion Shahab, Associate Professor in Health Psychology at University College London, said:
"Legal products available in the UK are compliant with EU regulation, using propylene glycol and glycerine as suspension and carrier liquid for nicotine and flavourings to produce the vapour, not oil. Standard e-liquids have been used safely by millions of people to help them stop smoking for over a decade now, without any of the adverse health effects reported in the US."
Vapers and smokers should continue to be reassured by the quality and safety of products on the market in the UK and we would remind them to only purchase nicotine containing products which have been notified to the MHRA, from reputable retailers.