'Popcorn Lung' From Vaping - a Myth or Cause for Concern?

There are facts and fiction when it comes to vaping. The facts; more than four million currently vape in the UK alone. It’s a cessation tool originally designed to help smokers quit by mimicking the same action and including nicotine as one of the key ingredients, but has now become a cultural trend too, which is not the intention. 

Both smoking cigarettes and vaping e-cigarettes carry health risks (more with the former than the latter) - and one of the most prominent medical discussions surrounds ‘popcorn lung’. While it does not come without risks (you’re inhaling substances into your lungs after all), vaping is backed up by medical organisations such as Cancer Research UK and the NHS as a recommended alternative to smoking.

But what of popcorn lung, a nickname for bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as obliterative bronchiolitis, a non-cancerous lung disease that can be life-altering if contracted. Is this a myth created and enhanced by the media to sell news or should it be a concern for vapers that have switched from smoking?

What is Popcorn Lung?
Bronchiolitis obliterans damages your lungs’ smallest airways which in turn induces shortening of breath and coughing. It’s often caused by an infection or inhaling toxic chemicals. With over 5,000 dangerous toxins in cigarettes, it’s understandable there are links between popcorn lung and smoking. 

Currently, there is no cure for the illness. The nickname popcorn lung was coined by the events and circumstances of factory workers contracting the condition whilst packaging microwave popcorn, containing the chemical diacetyl. Originally diacetyl was included in e-liquids, as it is in various food products (hence popcorn) but was later removed.

If you search for popcorn lung online, most of the results relate to e-cigarettes and the vaping trend because of media stories published about vapers who have popcorn lung after picking up e-cigarettes. The question remains who do you believe more - the media or medical professionals? Cancer Research claims there is no link or evidence between vaping and popcorn lung as of yet, although research continues. Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency follows a similar path by also disregarding the media claim.

Can Vaping Cause Popcorn Lung?
While we don’t claim to be medical professionals at V2 Cigs, all we can do is point you towards the research to date, highlighting that there are several causes for Bronchiolitis Obliterans. 

Even if there were traces of diacetyl to flavour a vape juice, it would still be considerably less than you would find in a cigarette.

If you buy your e-liquid from a reputable seller within the UK, you will more than likely be free of the dangers of diacetyl, as it would need to be included in the ingredients list. 

In 2016, the use of the chemical within e-liquids was banned in the UK under the EU Tobacco Products Directive. Popcorn is more likely to occur by breathing in other dangerous chemicals such as acetaldehyde or sulphur dioxide.

Should UK Vapers Be Concerned About Popcorn Lung?
It’s always important to be concerned and recognise any issues regarding your health. These days you can read so much online about your health that it’s natural to worry. The symptoms to look out for when vaping include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and dizziness. 

But it can also depend on the strength of the nicotine you use and any withdrawal symptoms from smoking tobacco cigarettes.

There should be no association between popcorn lung and vaping according to medical sources currently. Research is still being carried out as we understand more about the cultural phenomenon because it’s vital to understand whether it’s beneficial to vape after smoking. 

It’s important to recognise that only those who smoke cigarettes and looking to quit should pick up vaping as an alternative. Symptoms relating to popcorn lung may occur, but it’s better to get checked by a medical professional to understand why it’s happening instead of reading the news. Providing there is no diacetyl in your e-liquid, which should not be the case with a trusted website or store that sells e-cigarette products, popcorn lung is not expected.