Vaping News

Popcorn Doc Escapes GMC Investigation

Despite receiving a formal complaint, the General Medical Council has refused to investigate TV Doc Sara Kayat for telling viewers that vapers are at risk of contracting popcorn lung

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In July, Dr Sara Kayat appeared on ITV’s This Morning. She informed Dermot O'Leary, Alison Hammond, and the viewers that “millions” of British e-cig users are at risk of contracting popcorn lung from vaping. A detailed formal complaint was made to the General Medical Council but they have refused to take action.

Dr Kayat said: “[Popcorn lung] is an inflammatory lung disease that can occur as a result of vaping.”

Public Health England, now called the UK Health Security Agency, pointed out in 2018 that Kayat’s claim is complete nonsense: “One of the most commonly held concerns is that e-cigarettes might cause ‘popcorn lung’. However, diacetyl is banned as an ingredient from e-cigarettes and e-liquids in the UK. It had been detected in some e-liquid flavourings in the past, but at levels hundreds of times lower than in cigarette smoke. Even at these levels, smoking is not a major risk factor for this rare disease.”

Cancer Research UK unequivocally states: “Diacetyl was banned in e-cigarette liquids under the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in 2016. E-cigarettes don’t cause the lung condition known as popcorn lung.”

A formal complaint was submitted to the General Medical Council that detailed the statements and evidence showing that Dr Kayat was spreading ill-informed opinions on daytime television.

The General Medical Council responded: “We have carefully considered your complaint, and while we appreciate your reasons for writing to us, we don’t feel that these are issues that would warrant further GMC action being taken. We are sorry if this is not the outcome that you were hoping for.

“We oversee medical education; we give entry to the Register for those suitably qualified; we advise on good medical practice while registered; and we remove or restrict registration in response to fitness to practise concerns where there may be a risk to patient safety.

“An investigation can only be opened if the concerns raised are so serious that the doctor’s fitness to practise medicine is called into question to such an extent that action may be required to stop or restrict the way in which they can work to protect future patient safety.”

Clearly, spreading misinformation on national television will lead to smokers being convinced they should avoid switching to vaping.

The General Medical Council justified its inaction by saying: “Our colleague has said that their understanding of the current evidence would suggest that what the doctor is saying regarding popcorn lung is incorrect, although they have confirmed that they are not an expert in this field. They have said that the comments by itself, however, in one interview would not in their view amount to a serious concern.”

Adding, “Overall, we don't consider it is inaccurate that the doctor has made comments about the potential risks of vaping

Demonstrating a clear grasp of the complaint, the General Medical Council concluded: “You may wish to raise your concerns directly with the makers of the TV show and/or the paper which printed any comments.”


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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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