2 Misinformed “Popcorn Lung” News Articles Attack Vaping

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2 Misinformed “Popcorn Lung” News Articles Attack Vaping in the UK

We thought we were past the popcorn lung BS, but apparently not: two major UK media outlets published articles citing that “Many users will eventually develop 'popcorn lung',” a highly rare condition which we know isn’t caused by vaping.

To be honest, we expect little else from these major UK media outlets.

Popcorn lung, a fear of the past, has been dredged up in petty fear-mongering tactics from the Daily Mail and Express newspapers this month. This comes mere weeks after a paper in the British Dental Journal was published, which was dismissed by experts for lack of evidence. The articles state that vapers face a “high risk” of developing popcorn lung, a condition which we know is not caused by vaping.

In fact, one of the experts quoted in the Daily Mail article clapped back on Twitter, saying he’s “not thrilled” that his statements were taken out of context. In his tweet, Dr Panagis Galiasatos said he’s “worried about youth usage, not those looking to use it for harm reduction.”

These articles are downright ludicrous, attempting to pump fear into the hearts of their millions of readers. The Daily Mail article, titled “Expert warns that up to 95% of people who develop severe ‘popcorn lung’ as a result of vaping will DIE within five years of developing the disease,” is not based in fact in the slightest.

The Express article, titled “Vaping health hazard: Dr Sara warns of ‘popcorn lung’ – ‘an inflammatory lung disease’,” features a drop head that says “millions of people who vape in the UK could be at risk of developing “popcorn lung” – an inflammatory lung disease.” Again, this is just factually inaccurate.

Let’s get into why these claims are so ridiculous.

What is popcorn lung?

Popcorn lung—officially known as bronchiolitis obliterans in medical literature—is a rare lung disease caused by a build-up of scar tissue in the lungs.

The condition was first discovered in Missouri in a group of popcorn factory workers—hence the term popcorn lung—who developed the condition after being exposed to a particular chemical found in the popcorn’s flavouring: diacetyl.

Many media outlets have jumped on the fears people hold about lung scarring from vaping in recent years, but as of now, there have been no credible claims or documented cases of popcorn lung happening as a direct result of vaping.

Dr Galiasatos even said on Twitter that he asserted this fact in his press statement, but it wasn’t written in the final articles.

Now, it’s important to note that yes, diacetyl was once used in E-Liquids. However, since the TPD ban was put into force in 2016, this chemical can no longer be found in E-Liquids in the UK. It is one of many additives which has been banned from use in the UK—much like vitamin E acetate, which was the cause of the EVALI outbreak in the US.

But diacetyl can be found in one common inhalant: cigarette smoke. That’s right. Cigarette smoke contains the offending agent—diacetyl—and yet there have still never been any documented cases of popcorn lung from smoking. Let that sink in.

Most importantly, as Cancer Research UK says: “there have been no confirmed cases of popcorn lung linked to e-cigarettes.”

“[T]here have been no confirmed cases of popcorn lung linked to e-cigarettes.”

What do the articles say about vaping and popcorn lung?

The usual fear-mongering tactics can be found in the Daily Mail and Express articles, though the Daily Mail article is ultimately worse as far as misinformation goes.

The Daily Mail article says, “Experts are warning that many users of electronic nicotine devices – like Juuls – are developing the condition at alarming rates, especially at younger ages where these types of conditions are rare.”

Many users are developing popcorn lung? Really? Apparently, “many” now equates to zero.

Again, I reiterate, no one has gotten popcorn lung from vaping to date. How the Daily Mail is legally allowed to publish such unfounded nonsense is beyond me.

On the topic of diacetyl, the Daily Mail continues, “Diacetyl is a chemical commonly used in flavoring for food. […] When vaporized, it is extremely harmful to the lungs of someone that inhales it and continued exposure can cause disastrous long-term health issues. […] Diacetyl is also used as a flavoring agent in many electronic nicotine products.”

It’s used in many products? This author obviously didn’t do their research. Not a single E-Liquid manufactured or distributed in the UK contains diacetyl, as per TPD regulations—not since 2016. They’re essentially arguing a point which isn’t applicable to the UK market.

The Express article cites Dr Sara Kayat, who claims that popcorn lung “can occur as a result of vaping.” The article goes on to outline the symptoms and grim prognosis of the disease, including its “incurable” and “irreversible” nature.

Interestingly, however, towards the end of the article, the author sneaks in one critical line: “E-cigarettes don’t cause the lung condition known as popcorn lung.”


Then what, pray tell, is the purpose of this article?

To spread fear.

This fear isn’t just great for readership—it also keeps smokers from becoming vapers. In essence, these media outlets are preventing people from reaching the harm reduction methods they may need to stop smoking for good. 

Should UK vapers be worried about popcorn lung?

We’re not here to tell you not to be worried about the possible risks of vaping. Nothing is 100% safe; not even drinking water. If someone claims that vaping is entirely safe, find another news source.

There is still so much that is unknown to vape researchers and medical practitioners, but we do know one thing: popcorn lung isn’t caused by vaping.

So, in essence, no. If you’re a vaper who buys their E-Liquids from a trusted UK vape store, you won’t have to worry about popcorn lung.

Again, there have been no confirmed cases of popcorn lung tied to vaping.

Dr Panagis Galiasatos Response

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