You may have read some stories late last year about a spate of deaths across the United States linked to the use of vape pens.
The story has now taken an interesting turn, as The World Health Organisation (WHO) published new guidance on its website at the start of the week stating that it regards vaping to be harmful and even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes in some circumstances.
The vaping deaths in America
This new guidance may in part be due to the deaths in the United States where, to date, 60 people have died in the US as a result of lung injuries and vaping-related illnesses, with a further 2,668 cases of lung illnesses having been confirmed across the country. Alaska, in fact, is the only state not to have reported a case. Furthermore, two states – Massachusetts and New Jersey – have banned the sale of e-cigarette products.
Most patients have reported a history of using products containing THC – the psychoactive compound found in cannabis – while researchers from America’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) now believe that vitamin E acetate, a chemical found in some THC vaping liquids, could be behind the illness and the scarring found in suffers’ lungs. The researchers from the CDC came to this conclusion after finding vitamin E acetate in all of the patient’s lung fluid samples they had tested. It should be noted though that, in many of these cases, the patient had been using THC-infused oil that had been purchased on the black market.
The situation in the UK
While this is certainly a cause for concern and the WHO’s guidance should be given serious consideration, it should be said that there have been no confirmed deaths linked to vaping in the UK. The NHS also continues to recommend vaping as a healthier alternative to the smoking of cigarettes, saying that “e-cigarettes aren’t completely risk-free but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.”
However, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this issue and be mindful of the cases in America, as there have been some cases in the UK where vaping has been cited as a possible cause. For example, as reported in The Independent in November last year, some doctors believe the death of 57-year-old British factory worker Terry Miller from lipoid pneumonia was linked to vaping after oil from an e-cigarette was found in his lungs, with the coroner returning an open verdict at the inquest after saying he could not be sure whether vaping was a contributory factor.
Furthermore, as reported in the British Medical Journal, doctors identified the cause as vegetable glycerine found in e-cigarettes last year after a 34-year-old woman was found to have developed lipoid pneumonia.
It is important to say though that the link between vaping and lipoid pneumonia is still disputed. As quoted in the same Independent article, Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London, said;
“The case of lipoid pneumonia was allegedly caused by glycerin in the vape liquid the patient was inhaling – but glycerin is water-soluble and an alcohol and not a lipid, so the glycerin is unlikely to cause lipoid pneumonia.”
Therefore, according to Professor McNeill, the 34-year-old woman’s case “doesn’t really add up” and so, it could not be concluded that her illness was caused by vaping a nicotine e-cigarette.
We will be keeping a close eye on this issue then. If it is found that the manufacturers of e-cigarettes and those who produce the numerous flavoured oils users smoke, knew of the risks to users’ lungs, then anyone who suffers, as a result, could have grounds to make a claim against those manufacturers and producers. If this does happen, we at The Compensation Experts will be well-placed to put sufferers in touch with the right solicitors as we have a lot of experience dealing with those who have suffered from lung-related illnesses and injuries, such as mesothelioma, occupational asthma or asbestos-related claims, due to medical or employer negligence.
…the risks to vapers in the UK are believed to be minimal. Do not worry or think that switching to cigarettes would be a better alternative. It certainly would not be.
In the meantime, until more research is done and more is known about the cases linked in vaping in America, it is worth remembering what we noted earlier; many of the cases in the US were ones in which the patient had bought THC-infused oil from black market sources. Therefore, to ensure your continued health (and also to ensure you stay on the correct side of the law), make sure you only buying vaping products from reputable legal sources.