Why Is Vaping Safe Elsewhere?
Several hundred cases of a mysterious respiratory illness connected to vaping is striking a group of Americans who are otherwise healthy and young. Experts want and need to know why.
However, in the meantime a vaping panic has ensued. Bans are happening in some places, and health experts are urging the American public not to vape at all.
In the midst of a nationwide anti vaping panic, it is instructive to look at the reaction from experts in other place. In the UK, health experts are confirming to the public that vaping is safe.
Why is vaping safe in the UK, which has yet to see any of these illnesses?
The UK Perspective
The Guardian reports that Martin Dockrell, Public Health England’s head of Tobacco Control, reiterated the facts of the situation. Most cases of the illness here in the US have been connected to people vaping black market products and additives that are unsafe.
“Unlike the US, all e-cigarette products in the UK are tightly regulated for quality and safety by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and they operate the yellow card scheme, encouraging vapers to report any bad experiences,” Dockrell told The Guardian.
Similarly, another expert from health charity Action on Smoking and Health told The Guardian that the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) website provides complete information on unsafe smoking and vaping products.
Other experts from Edinburgh University and the University of Oxford stressed the importance of these safeguards. Furthermore, no serious side-effects have occurred in the UK to date.
University of Oxford professor of behavioral medicine Paul Aveyard emphasized to The Guardian: “These cases are worrying and need investigating but advice from all official bodies in the UK is that it is always preferable to vape than to smoke. These reports should not change that advice.”
Vaping Panic and Harm Reduction
This is in line with the evidence-based approach some Canadian media commentators are calling for.
The concern around this cluster of illnesses is real and scary—especially as someone who vapes. But these hysterical calls for nationwide bans seem to be ignoring the fact that experts elsewhere don’t see that extreme approach as effective or necessary.
This is the first time anything like this has occurred. Yet vaping and e-cigarettes have existed for years. The rash of illnesses with their sudden onset and strange similarities point to something specific and unique.
Vape Safely, Friends
In the interim, it helps to remember the facts:
Almost all documented cases involve vaping black market THC oil—not e-cigarettes or any other kind of cannabis.
- In fact, in California and Nevada, which account for 95 percent of all cases, ALL patients vaped black market THC oil.
New York State health officials have determined that all reported cases in the state involved at least one cannabis vape product. Nearly all of them contained high levels of vitamin E acetate.
Vitamin E acetate is is not an approved additive for vapes in New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program.
Almost all victims are teenagers who cannot buy these products anywhere, let alone from a licensed dispensary.
The most prudent move now for health officials here in the US may well be to restore their credibility. A science-based, more targeted public health message can do that. Vapers could also use warnings about specific black market cannabis oils.
Without this kind of focused messaging, more smokers might keep smoking, and some vapers might go back. A vaping panic is unhelpful, not to mention unhealthy. We already know smoking is dangerous—deadly, in fact.