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Poisonous Coverage

Science editors prove they lack scientific awareness by repeating popcorn lung slurs.

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With almost tedious predictability, British newspapers leapt upon a study and screamed “popcorn lung” at the top of their banner headlines. Vapers were warned of dangerous articles posing a threat to safer vaping while editors rubbed their hands in glee at the clicks on their websites.

“Due to the associations between diacetyl, bronchiolitis obliterans and other severe respiratory diseases observed in workers, urgent action is recommended to further evaluate this potentially widespread exposure via flavoured e-cigarettes,” says the conclusion to the study.

The Mirror’s Jasper Hamill took time out from writing about ISIS, aliens and sordid sex pics to turn his critical eye to the Boston team’s findings. His ability to analyse and appraise was no better or worse than that of Fiona Macrae (science editor for the Mail) or Sarah Knapton’s (science editor for the Telegraph). But it is the Telegraph’s claim: “Smokers who use e-cigs 'are risking harm to their lungs” that takes the first prize for stupidity.

It is true that the research team found that “Diacetyl was above the level of detection in 39 of the 51 flavours tested.” It is also true that “Diacetyl” is “a flavouring compound associated with the development of ‘Popcorn Lung’ in workers after inhalation exposure.” But what has been omitted is reference to the levels found in cigarettes and, by way of sleight of hand, covering up recommended levels for adult users by dragging children into the equation.

The report contains the bizarre statement that the tested liquids included “flavours that have particular appeal to children, teenagers and young adults.” Then they round on the NIOSH advisory levels by stating “these exposure limits are for adults, not children, who on average have a smaller body weight compared to typical adult workers, resulting in a greater overall dose per e-cigarette for children and adolescents.” This is not science; it’s propaganda making spurious leaps of judgement and clouding the report through mission creep.

POTV forum member, danb, posted an observation: “you can see in table 3 that the recommended exposure limit over 16 hours is 0.00125 ppm for diacetyl (or 0.00125 mg/L). Given that we breathe about 6000 L of air over 16 hours that comes out at about 7 mg of diacetyl in 16 hours. In the study they are measuring micrograms emitted per cartridge (let's say per 1 mL, though I can't see a definition of cartridge volume in the paper). In order to hit 7 mg within 10 cartridges (let's say 10 mL), you need to be emitting 700 micrograms of diacetyl per cartridge. No liquid tested in the study comes close to that level of emission - the worst liquid would still require you to vape 29 cartridges in 16 hours before hitting the recommended exposure limit, most would require 100s!”

Not only is the risk being posed by the levels being misrepresented by journalists but the imbecilic comments that it poses a greater risk for current smokers than their cigarettes should make them hang their heads in shame.

As Farsalinos says: “the authors failed to mention the presence of these compounds in tobacco cigarette smoke. This omission creates the impression that e-cigarettes are exposing users to a new chemical hazard, while in reality their exposure will be much lower compared to smoking.”

All of the UK data points to the fact that ecigs are used by ex-smokers, almost all being adults. Scientists can not ignore NIOSH guidelines because it doesn’t fit in with their hidden agenda, neither can they ignore the research that crushes all claims to a gateway effect. The research covered here casts a shadow over the members of the team who produced it and the media coverage is nothing more than shameful abuse of information and scaremongering.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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