Reading past the e-cigarette scare headlines

Can e-cigarettes increase the risk of heart attacks?

News stories that try to show vaping and e-cigarettes in a bad light are nothing new.

Since I started vaping 3 years ago there's been an almost continuous stream of negative articles and stories in the media. What they always seem to have in common is a dramatic and scary headline - those stories will be shared on social media and those headlines will be all that a lot of smokers read. It doesn't matter what the actual article says, people will comment negatively underneath without even reading the detail and the damage is done.

A recent story in the Telegraph had the headline “Vaping raises the risk of having a heart attack, biggest ever study says” and sadly most of the media have reported the study with similar headlines. If a smoker reads this headline they might very well be put off vaping and continue to smoke. For a non-smoker, it may reinforce the negative view they have of vaping already further creating a society that looks negatively on vapers, rather than encouraging smokers to use it as an aid to quit. However, if they take the time to read the article and the details of report they may well come to a very different conclusion. 

The Telegraph article states “the researchers said they were also unable to determine whether the damage had occurred prior to using e-cigarettes, or was caused by vaping.” This statement is very important. Read it to yourself a couple of times. What they are saying is they have no evidence that vaping caused the damage and it could have just as likely been caused by something else prior to the people starting vaping... so, smoking perhaps?

“When the risk of heart attack increases by as much as 34% among e-cigarette users compared to non-smokers, I wouldn’t want any of my patients nor my family members to vape.”  

The words of a doctor apparently, which seem a little strange when a doctor would surely know what the report also states, that: 

“Traditional tobacco cigarette smokers had strikingly higher odds of having a heart attack (…) a 165% increase.”

What the reports own evidence shows is that someone who smokes has much higher odds of having a heart attack than an ex-smoker who now vapes. (165% increase vs. 34% increase)

“Scientists and health officials are divided over whether e-cigarettes are safe.” 

No they aren't, this is just a false statement to confuse people. No scientist or health official has ever claimed e-cigarettes are 'safe'. The My Vape Box team covered this in a lot of detail in the blog 'Can e-cigarettes harm you'. For us, vaping and e-cigarettes has always been about harm reduction and that is how it should always be presented and discussed. 

I could go on picking this 'news report' apart sentence by sentence because it's so easy, but it's also tedious and frustrating. It stands as a warning that we must always read past the headlines. What the detail and evidence from this report actually says is that vaping is far better for you then smoking and I agree that is the only claim we should be making as e-cigarette users.

The "Popcorn Lung" story

It saddens me that we are still having to engage in these conversations. I was talking to a friend who I hadn't seen for a while just the other week, she was still talking about 'popcorn lung' like it was still relevant to vapers. For those of you who might be unaware of the whole 'popcorn lung story' here's a brief synopsis.  

There's a flavouring compound called Diacetyl that has a buttery taste, it's been linked to something called 'popcorn lung' (bronchiolitis obliterans) which is damage to the lungs caused by breathing in this compound. It was called popcorn lung because it was used in the manufacture of butter flavoured popcorn in the US. Some workers in the popcorn factory suffered with this condition after working with this chemical over a long period of time.

Several years back Diacetyl was found in some e-liquids and all hell broke loose across the media and within vaping circles. It's relevant to this blog because there were many headlines screaming 'Vaping linked to popcorn lung' and many vapers were worried, some even started attacking e-liquid companies if their e-liquids contained this flavour compound. 

The important thing to know before we continue is that a single traditional cigarette contains on average 335.9micro-grams of Diacetyl. Assuming that an average smoker smokes 20 cigarettes a day, they will be inhaling 6,718micro-grams of Diacetyl every day. (Research from from 'Determination of toxic carbonyl compounds in cigarette smoke' Kazutoshi Fujioka & Takayuki Shibamoto 2006)

When tested, the highest level of Diacetyl found in 3ml of e-liquid was 9micro-grams. I haven't mistyped that, NINE micro-grams. So in a 10ml bottle there would be around 32micro-grams at the very most.

So once again, one of the positives of switching to vaping was reported as a negative. The headline should have read 'Switching to vaping can reduce your Diacetyl intake from 6,718micro-grams a day down to 32micro-grams'

Even though the risks from inhaling the compound at these low levels would seem to be almost non-existent, flavouring companies have gone to great lengths to offer alternative flavourings without the compound and many e-liquid manufacturers have now removed it from their vaping products completely.

The media has been highly irresponsible in the way it's reported vaping over the last 5 years. It's created confusion when clarity was needed and many of the public (and most importantly cigarette smokers) are still misinformed. Whatever way they try to spin it, the fact remains that nobody is claiming vaping is "safe" but it IS far less harmful than smoking and the hard evidence to support that is growing all the time.

I'm not saying this to promote an e-cigarette product or to promote the company I work for. I'm saying it because I want to make sure smokers realise that they have a choice to use a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

Whether you choose to make the switch from traditional cigarettes to vaping is down to you to decide. I believe that people should be free to make those choices themselves as adults, but we should be making informed choices. Good decisions rely on us having good information and to get that we must always read past the headlines.

Simon - My Vape Box

Simon blog my vape box




  • Hi Kevin, thanks for the kind comments. I’m really glad to hear you and your wife have been successful in quitting smoking. We wish you many more happy years smoke free!

    Simon (My Vape Box)
  • Well written, Simon! Refreshing to read an honest account of the facts as they really are and not as the media would rather portray. My wife and I gave up smoking cigarettes by turning to vaping almost three years ago and haven’t looked back. We truly believe that the NHS claims that vaping was 95 percent safer than smoking cigarettes is entirely accurate, and both feel 95 percent healthier now than we did three years ago! Sadly, we live in a world of sensationalised attention-grabbing headlines that only seem to serve the purpose of denying human beings the privilege and enjoyment of any pleasurable activities in life. You are quite right when you say that as humans we should be entitled to make up our own minds and take the risks we deem fit.

    Kevin Webb

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