Can Vaping Harm The Lungs?
A social media influencer has claimed that vaping caused her lungs to collapse. This story has been widely shared by a national newspaper, the Daily Express. No doubt this type of coverage can cause worry for smokers, smokers who have switched to vaping and their families, but can electronic cigarettes cause this kind of problem?
Summer, a self-proclaimed ‘influencer’ on the Instagram platform, wrote for her followers: “My lung collapsed from smoking vapes. I’ve been in hospital for almost two weeks now with a drain tube in my lungs. They started with a needle in my lung to let the air out but that didn’t work, they decided to put a tube in and that didn’t work, x-rays every day and taking morphine they decided to try another tube on my chest and it worked. I’ve been in so much pain, I’ve not been able to walk or talk. I’ve been scared and hesitant to even post but this situation changed my life so much and I can’t believe it happened to me. I always see things online about stories and things happening to people but I never thought it would be me. I just want to share and let people know those disposable vapes everyone smokes are so dangerous! Out of nowhere my lung had collapsed. I dialled 999 straight away. If you or your friends smoke them please try stop. I’m so traumatised but I’m grateful I’m healing now, I’m feeling better, and I’m hoping to go home very soon.”
This is not the first time such a claim has been made, but no previous claim that vaping caused a lung to collapse has been supported with evidence or confirmed by medical experts.
In 2018, claims were made that vaping caused “wet lung” in a “previously healthy 18-year-old woman”. Wet lung is the common name given to a condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome or hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
In this instance, various details of her medical history were not disclosed at first. Gradually, it became apparent that she had several conflating issues such as being an asthmatic who used an inhaler. This emphasised that ignoring other factors and blaming e-cigs was a simplistic way of looking at the problem.
Lung and heart specialist Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos commented: “Any inflammation in the lungs (could be caused by pneumonia, bacteria and more) can result in pleural effusion. The authors of the study only suggest that vaping caused hypersensitivity pneumonitis providing absolutely no scientific data to back this theory except mentioning that the girl vaped.”
Dr Farsalinos added: “The use of the term ‘wet lung’ is a deliberate attack on vaping, and an attempt to fear monger and spread misinformation once again, forcing smokers away from using this product to quit smoking.”
Then, in 2019, vaping was blamed for causing a series of serious lung incidents in America. Despite clear evidence that it wasn’t to do with legal e-cig use, it took American authorities over a year to finally admit that the condition wasn’t caused by vaping but through the illegal use of black-market cannabis products.
This doesn’t mean that Summer on Instagram hasn’t suffered from a serious lung problem, it just means there is no evidence that vaping caused it, no matter what the Daily Express would like you to believe.
Professor John Britton is a professor of Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and the director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS). As well as not knowing if Summer had previously been a smoker or currently suffers from any predating disease, Professor Britton pointed out that lungs can collapse spontaneously, especially in tall, thin people. He reaffirmed that vaping is far safer than smoking.
The take-home point from this is that there has not been a single medically documented, evidenced case of e-cigarettes causing severe lung damage.