If you went online or watched television news in December 2015, you may have seen eliquid getting a lot of attention. There were several highly publicized anti-vapor media stories claiming that eliquid has 750 times more chemicals than combustible tobacco products. One of the most alarming, and misleading reports claimed that the eliquid flavoring used in e-cigarettes causes a condition referred to as “popcorn lung.” This report is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and we are setting the record straight.
All of these stories mentioned were derived from a narrowly focused Harvard University study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspective and National Institutes of Health (NIH). This shortsighted study concluded that most eliquid exposes consumers to harmful chemicals that are known to cause lung damage. The condition is called “popcorn lung” because it was first discovered in the lungs of workers employed at a popcorn factory where there were toxic levels of diacetyl.
Unfortunately, these news stories have greatly exaggerated the Harvard study’s findings. This media tactic is likely the result of pressure from Big Tobacco and anti-vaping groups, intent on furthering their own agenda. Let’s take a closer look: the Harvard study analyzed the chemical makeup of 51 eliquid flavors. The experts who conducted the study were specifically looking and testing for certain chemicals including diacetyl, acetyl propionyl, and acetoin. The study concluded that one or more of the three aforementioned chemicals were found in 92 percent of the 51 e-liquid flavors tested.
What many media stories fail to mention is that there are over 7,000 eliquid formulas available on the market. By only looking at 51 of them, or less than 14 percent of the entire market, it is fair to say that the study consisted of too small of a sample size to make a conclusion about the entire eliquid industry.
In addition, diacetyl, one of the chemicals that was tested for and identified in 39 of 51 flavors, can be found in dozens of food products sold nationwide. With the help of sophisticated lobbying and legislation, the food industry is legally allowed to refer to diacetyl on food labels as “food flavoring.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The popcorn lungs scenario occurs when a person absorbs a large quantity of diacetyl. When this happens, the individual can contract a severe respiratory disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, causing lesions on the throat. These kind of lesions are a rare and very extreme symptom of diacetyl ingestion. Of the eliquids found to contain diacetyl, none contained toxic levels. And for the record, V2 eliquid does not contain any of the harmful chemicals the Harvard study was testing for.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of information withheld from most media coverage of the study involves not ecigs, but tobacco cigarettes. The Harvard study implies that consuming eliquid flavored with diacetyl will likely result in contracting popcorn lung. The truth is that tobacco cigarettes contain levels of diacetyl up to 100 times that which was found in some eliquid…and there has never been a single confirmed case of popcorn lung from smoking.
Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, an expert on electronic cigarette research, published a study in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research which confirmed that the levels of diacetyl are actually higher in tobacco smoke than e-cigarette vapor. In addition, Dr. Farsalinos has stated that the levels of dangerous compounds found in many eliquid products “are absolutely minimal, and not expected to raise any concerns about human health effects.”
When you know all of these facts and get expert opinions from professionals on both sides of the issue, you can draw a much more calm, sensible opinion about e-cigarettes. While these narrow studies and misleading headlines are intended to deceive and scare people away from an adult alternative to tobacco cigarettes, we encourage you to share this blog post and help spread the full truth about diacetyl and e-cigarettes.