There have been a lot of media reports lately talking about deaths caused by “vaping”. Obviously, as vapers, this grabs our attention straight away, and to anyone that is on the fence about vaping this is detrimental to their decision-making process as to whether or not they decide to start vaping.
Whilst initially the general media trend has remained the same, condemning vaping to be evil, there is a lot of big names that are starting to stand up for vaping and focus on facts like the Australian tobacco harm reduction association. There have even been guest representatives on shows like sunrise and today tonight covering the issue with a positive backing.
From what I can find (and this shows just how accurate media reports are) there are varying reports up to 1900 people that have been affected by this “epidemic” in the states. The death toll for this “epidemic” is said to be anywhere up to 20 people. Now, every single one of the people that have been reported are all in the united states seem to have something in common – the vapes they are using are not for vaping nicotine liquids as the majority of people in Australia use but are for THC or weed oils as they are also known.
The specific compound that seems to be causing the majority of the issues is the use of vitamin E acetate which is an oil in the liquids as reported by New York’s health department. Vaporizing oils is well known to carry huge risks which is why e-liquids are based in vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol. When vaped oils get into the lungs, your body treats it as a foreign object and mounts an immune response resulting in inflammation and the buildup of liquids which can cause lipid pneumonia. So long story short, your lungs end up with a film of oil on them and are no longer able to process oxygen properly.
To quote ATHRA’s report “not a single case of nicotine vaping has been identified as causing any concern”. There is no oil in e-juices sold by reputable business such as vape shops and e-juice manufacturers. When someone chooses to add nicotine to their own e-liquid, the “Nicotine is dissolved into propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin which are both alcohols and not oils. Some of the victims of this outbreak were also vaping nicotine, but there are no identified cases of nicotine e-liquid playing any role.” Not only that but no cases have occurred outside the United States, showing that clearly something has changed. Vitamin e acetate has previously been linked to lipid pneumonia, first in 2000, so nearly 20 years ago, and again in 2012, and in both cases relating to homemade cannabis/THC cartridges.
On a basic level, vaping has recently been vilified in some form or another especially when it comes to Australian media, as vaping has not been approved by the therapeutic goods association of Australia as a quit smoking aid despite the years upon years of research that has been done by major medical bodies around the world,. A lot of people have put this lack of support down to the fact that vaping is potentially already losing the government billions of dollars every year in lost tax revenue through tobacco sales. If the average smoker was to spend $35 per day on a packets of smokes and let’s say that $32 of that is tax, and we take Dr. Mendelsohn's statistics from his today interview of there being 250,000 vapers in Australia, that would mean that there is on average 56 Million dollars of lost taxation through tobacco sales every week, which equates to 2.9 billion dollars per year in lost tax revenue from people quitting smoking. That’s not accounting for the quarterly price increases and that is only figures about Australia, not taking into account the rest of the world.
If vaping typically caused severe lung damage like has happened here, we would have seen many more cases in the masses of people that vape over the last decade as it has increased in popularity, not seemingly all at once.
Now is the time for action. As vendors, we are always working tirelessly behind the scenes to fight the good fight and help vaping move forward as an industry. But as a vaper, you can be helping too! It comes down to things like spreading the correct information, educating the uneducated in a calm and polite way, and supporting groups such as Legalise Vaping Australia and the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association wherever possible.
Regardless of all of this, it is sad to hear of anyone passing away, so don’t think that we are glossing over that, however, before pointing fingers at the why or the what, it is important to understand the facts and the causes before coming to any sort of conclusion.