Vape Safety – Fact Check

TL:DR – Is vaping safe? We talk about electronic cigarettes as a form of harm reduction, but there are plenty of myths out there too. We will never hide the truth but we will always challenge the false. Here’s our evidence based fact check on the rumours around vaping and why we think it’s safer than smoking.

Vape Safety History

Compared to smoking, vaping is relatively new. While it has been popular for about 15 years now the newness causes some people to be concerned about vaping safety. 

In this article, we are going to clear up some of the fake news and stories which have been blown out of proportion over the years. 

Click the quick links below if you’re in a hurry to bust a myth.

  1. Is vaping safer than smoking
  2. What is in a vape juice compared to a cigarette?
  3. What do we know about those things so far?
  4. Have there been any Problems
  5. Vaping related injuries
  6. Vaping related side effects
  7. Vaping related deaths
  8. What is the truth?
  9. Claim 1 – Vapes can explode
  10. Claim 2 – Popcorn lung
  11. Claim 3 – Vaping is worse than smoking
  12. Claim 4 – Vaping leads to smoking
  13. Claim 5- Vaping kills
  14. Summary – Can you vape safely?

Is vaping safer than smoking

Smoking is one of the biggest causes of both death and illness in the UK. Around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking each year, many who have lived with a smoking related illness. The NHS website reports that smoking increases your risk of over 50 serious health conditions.

Smoking cigarettes burns over 5,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to be toxic and cause cancer. Vaping doesn’t burn tobacco and therefore will not release tar and carbon monoxide. Some chemicals are found in vape and cigarettes, however they are at much lower levels in a vape.

One key fact is that Public Health England have said that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. 

What is in a vape juice compared to a cigarette?

When a cigarette burns it releases thousands of chemicals, many of which are poisonous. They include:

  1. Benzene
  2. Chromium
  3. Polonium 
  4. Cadmium
  5. Arsenic
  6. Formaldehyde
  7. Butadiene 

An e-cigarette contains 3 main ingredients 

  1. Vegetable Glycerine (VG)
  2. Propylene glycol (PG)
  3. Flavourings 

They can also contain nicotine, which is the addictive substance which is also found in cigarettes. 

While ecigs and vaping is not completely risk free, compared to smoking cigarettes they carry a very small fraction of the risk. Some chemicals are found in cigarettes and vapes, however in vapes they are at much lower levels.

The main fact is, vapes do not produce two of the most harmful parts of smoking tobacco which are carbon monoxide and tar.

Have there been any problems with vaping?

Over the years we have heard news stories which have reported how vaping has caused injuries or even death. However, you need to dive into the meat of the stories to really fact check. Headlines may be grabbing, but always make sure you read and research these stories before writing off vaping and continuing to smoke.

Vaping related injuries

Vaping related injuries have been claimed over the years with things like vapes exploding and causing burns. Other injuries have been said to be linked to lungs such as the ‘mysterious lung disease’ and ‘popcorn lung’. More on the facts of this later.

Vaping related side effects

Side effects of vaping have been reported, mild ones are usually related to using too high of a nicotine dose. These side effects may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache 

Other side effects of vaping can include a dry mouth which can be rectified by making sure you drink lots of water throughout the day when you vape. 

Vaping related deaths

The BBC reported that 2 deaths ‘may be linked to vaping’. Now, compare that to the 78,000 deaths 100% caused by smoking, it’s a drop in the ocean. Also, it may well be unfounded when you dive a little deeper into the story. When the story was published they were still awaiting confirmation from the coroner’s report that the deaths were caused by vaping. There was never a follow-up story so can we assume that the deaths were not in fact linked to vaping? 

In the US there was an ‘outbreak of a serious lung illness’ linked to vaping. However, it was linked to vaping illicit substances, including vitamin E acetate, which is banned in nicotine e-cigs in the UK. 

Is Vaping Safe? What is the truth?

So far in our vape safety write up, we have mentioned just a few of the claims and headlines around vaping from the last 10 years. We are going to debunk some of these myths and let you know the truth behind the claims and to help you be confident in vaping safety.

Claim 1 – Vapes can explode

Yes. They actually can explode, well okay maybe not as dramatic as exploding, but set on ignite. Like any electronic product with a battery, if you do not take care of it then it can malfunction. 

The malfunction is often due to the following

  1. Using a device that is not genuine – unfortunately there are devices on the market which are rip offs of genuine brands. These rip offs have not gone through the rigorous testing and contain the safety chips that the genuine device would have. You can check the authenticity of your device by checking the serial number on the box against the brands website. 
  2. Using incorrect chargers- You should never use a charger that is not made for your vape device, such as a tablet or mobile phone charger. Always use the charging cable that your device came with and don’t leave it to charge overnight to ensure vaping safety.
  3. Leaving your vape somewhere hot – You car on a hot day is the perfect example of somewhere not to leave your vape. This can cause it to get too hot. 
  4. Using fake or damaged batteries – If you are using external batteries in your device then make sure they are genuine, undamaged and from a decent brand. 
  5. Using an unregulated mod – Unregulated mods don’t have to be unsafe if you know what you are doing with them. If you decide to use an unregulated mod then understand that it will not have all the safety features in a regulated one. You will also need to understand a little about ohms law and electronics before you start tinkering with the settings and coil building. 

Claim 2 – Popcorn lung

Popcorn lung  (bronchiolitis obliterans) is probably the most well known concern when it comes to vaping safety. This claim comes from the chemical diacetyl which has been found in vapes. Diacetyl is an artificial chemical used to flavour buttery foods, such as popcorn. In the past there have been cases of ‘popcorn lung’ in a popcorn factory – hence the name. This was caused by workers at the factory inhaling the chemical during work. 

A US study in 2016 looked at e-cigarettes and whether they contained diacetyl. 39 of the 51 tested in the study contained diacetyl, which lead to speculation that vaping could cause popcorn lung. However, there have been no confirmed cases and no evidence to suggest that vaping causes the same condition. This has been confirmed by the Cancer Research website.

Claim 3 – Vaping is worse than smoking

This is a claim we often hear from people who are not quite ready to give up smoking. The facts are there though. We know that there are 78,000 deaths in the UK each year from smoking. We know that tar and carbon monoxide are found in cigarettes and are dangerous to health. We know that vaping doesn’t contain those.

Public Health England doesn’t make claims lightly. The fact that they have declared vaping to be 95% safer than smoking really is a stat to go by if you are someone who is questioning vape safety and claiming that vaping is worse than smoking. 

Claim 4 – Vaping leads to smoking

Chances are, you wouldn’t start vaping unless you had a nicotine need to fulfil and wanted to quit smoking. If you do by chance decide to start vaping, having never used a nicotine product before, then you will be very unlikely to start smoking. Smoking tastes very different to vaping. Not only that, but if you are someone who has never smoked before then smoking cigarettes probably won’t make you feel too well due to the chemicals, nicotine content and of course, nasty smell. 

Claim 5 – Vaping kills

Smoking kills. While there was a big thing in the States a few years back on vaping causing ‘mysterious lung disease’ and death, this has actually been linked to vaping illicit substances, not regulated eliquids. 

Eliquids that contain PG, VG, flavourings and nicotine have not been linked to any deaths, unlike smoking which is linked to over 200 in the UK each day. 

Summary – Can you vape safely?

You certainly can vape safely if you consider these cornerstone vape safety ‘maxims’. Get smarter and start ensuring you do the following:

  1. Always use genuine devices and batteries
  2. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for filling and charging
  3. Never keep your device somewhere too hot or too cold
  4. Only ever vape substances designed for vaping and regulated
  5. Choose a nicotine strength that is correct for you
  6. Use a regulated device 

If you are considering quitting smoking with the help of vaping, then some key stats and resources to remember have been published by Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest cancer charity and Public Health England.

Both are incredibly authoritative bodies and free from financial pressure groups. Efficacy of information is paramount with both organisations and what they say is generally only released after consideration from peer review.

What is Peer Review when it comes to medicine and science? The US National Library of Medicine explains this in more depth, but essentially it is the act of letting contemporary scholars, researchers and public bodies scrutinize and fault find in your work.

The absence of error, beyond a statistically significant level, means the work if relevant and free from bias, can be considered to be of high quality and valid to use as a reference point.

Back to those ‘is vaping safe’ quotes.

‘Vaping is 95% safer than smoking cigarettes’

Public Health England

‘Cigarettes contain over 5000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and known to be cancer causing’

Cancer Research UK

Where next? Black Friday Vape Deals?