Vaping Safe - An Update

Published by Bryn Rees on 8th Oct 2019

Our Head of Compliance and Regulatory Affairs, Bryn Rees, thought it was time to set some clarity on recent news reports that are not only affecting smokers’ decisions to switch to vaping during this core Stoptober month but may also be providing pause for thought for existing vapers.

With many conflicting reports in the media, and misinformation prevalent on social media, it is entirely understandable that customers require more clarity.

With regards to the cases reported in the USA, the medical consensus appears to be that the respiratory issues being reported are resultant of lipid pneumonia. Lipid pneumonia is a specific type of pneumonia caused by the build-up of lipids (common examples of lipids include; oils, waxes, and certain vitamins such as Vitamin E) in the lungs which can greatly reduce lung function and cause symptoms such as acute onset cough and dyspnea.

As now clarified by the CDC, the cases in the USA are linked to the use of THC containing liquids (predominantly a few brands of pre-filled carts). Unfortunately, this is not wholly surprising due to the wide-spread use of lipid additives such tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E Acetate) as thickening agents in THC containing products – used to mimic the appearance of ‘high-purity’ products which is desirable to THC-product consumers.

As the viscosity of e-liquid is not an indicator of quality or purity to e-cigarette users (conversely too high a viscosity is in-fact considered detrimental) it is highly unlikely that a responsible manufacturer would choose to add a thickening agent such as tocopheryl acetate to an e-liquid in the UK market. There is no functional benefit to the product, or to the user, in doing so.

Further to the above, there is some confusion with regards to Vegetable Glycerine (‘VG’) and its use in e-liquid. It is a common misconception that VG is an ‘oil’ and, as such, could cause lipid pneumonia if inhaled. Whilst VG is derived from plant oil it is not itself an oil (or lipid), in actuality, VG is a simple polyol belonging to the alcohol family of compounds which is water-soluble (unlike lipids which are not water-soluble) and has no known links to lipid pneumonia. VG is commonly used in many products intended for inhalation such as; smoke machines, scent diffusers, and candles.

Public Health England has reiterated their stance that "smokers should consider switching completely and vapers should stop smoking. We are as certain as ever that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking."

There have been news reports in the UK media referencing the death of a patient in the UK in 2010 who reportedly contracted lipid pneumonia following e-cigarette use. With regards to this unfortunate case there are two points to consider;

1 - Following an inquest into the cause of death, the coroner was not satisfied that the patient's e-cigarette use was a contributory factor in the cause of death and an open verdict was recorded.

  • The only evidence submitted that the e-liquid used contained ‘oil’ was a visual assessment of the bottle which described the contents as ‘oily in appearance’. Unfortunately, no testing of the product was completed to establish whether or not it contained oil.

2 - Since 2016, a new law is in place which tightly regulates the ingredients used in e-liquid.

  • If oil is used as an ingredient then it should be disclosed both on the packaging of the product and in the submission made to the MHRA prior to sale.
  • Given that it is well known that the inhalation of oil can cause lipid pneumonia, with a risk of respiratory failure and death, it is our position that the sale of e-liquid containing oil is prohibited by law and any responsible manufacturer should refrain from the use of oils (and other lipids) as an ingredient in e-liquid.

Above all else, the cases reported in the USA highlight to me the importance of only purchasing vaping products from a trustworthy source. It is the widely held belief that it is ‘easy’ to make e-liquid, however, I would caution that to manufacture a safe product it is not enough to know which ingredients to add together, but also to know which ingredients should not be added or used and why.

JAC Vapour e-liquid products do not contain lipids (including oils and/or tocopheryl acetate) and there is no known link between any of the ingredients used and lipid pneumonia. By law, our products cannot contain ingredients that could cause harm (other than nicotine) and we take this obligation incredibly seriously – our objective is, as it always has been, to provide smokers with a less harmful alternative to tobacco.

Even before TPD was introduced, JAC Vapour already did (and still do) more than is required under the law. Even our shortfill and picNIC flavour shots, which fall outwith the scope of the TPD, are tested to the same extent as our pre-mixed ranges, and have full emissions results.

We don’t cut corners with the quality of the liquid we produce and sell. It always has been important to be sure of your supplier, their quality, and also the facilities in which the e-liquid is created (which should always be an ISO certified lab) but in this climate, it's more important than ever. We won’t ever be the cheapest, but that’s because we won’t cut corners or compromise on quality.