Dispelling The Myth Linking Vaping With Popcorn Lung

5 mins read

The Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), sometimes called e-cigarettes or vapes, have been gaining steady popularity over the years. It is mainly used by many smokers as an alternative to traditional cigarettes due to its potential benefits. However as the use of ENDS rises, so does the myths and misinformation surrounding it. 

One such myth is that the use of ENDS can cause a lung condition bronchiolitis obliterans. The disease which is also known as popcorn lung has been associated with vape products although there is no evidence to back the claim. Below we take a look at the condition and how it became linked with ENDS.

What Is Popcorn Lung?

In order to understand how a condition such as bronchiolitis obliterans comes about, we need to take a deeper look at how the lungs work. As you inhale, the air is sucked in through your nostrils and travels through your throat to the trachea or windpipe. The air that moves from the trachea is divided into two main bronchial tubes, which then go into each lung. 

It passes through several small branches of tubes in your lungs until it reaches the bronchioles. The bronchiole which is the smallest tube then passes the air into small and elastic air ducts called alveoli. The oxygen is exchanged into your bloodstream from the alveoli. 

When a person has popcorn lung, their bronchioles become scarred and inflamed. This shrinks the airways to the alveoli making it difficult for oxygen to make way into the bloodstream. A person with this condition will experience shortness of breath even when breathing normally. It is a chronic and irreversible condition that can affect you for the rest of your life.

What Causes Popcorn Lung?

There are two main chemicals that are linked with bronchiolitis obliterans. One is acetaldehyde which is a chemical found in marijuana smoke. This chemical can also harm the mouth, throat, and stomach. One high-profile case has been linked to a teen in Canada who contracted the disease after using marijuana oil as a mixture while smoking.

The other chemical which is linked to the disease is called diacetyl. It is used as an artificial flavoring in food products such as microwave popcorn. The nickname popcorn lung came about after workers in a microwave popcorn factory contracted the disease while packaging the product. Another well known case is linked to a man from Colorado, USA. He ate two packs of microwave popcorn daily, for ten years before falling sick.

How Is It Connected To ENDS

Some manufacturers used diacetyl as a flavor in their e-liquid during the early days. The chemical diacetyl was found to be present in vapor released by these juices. Anti vape campaigners have used this to spread fear among would-be vapers. So far there is no evidence to suggest that these small amounts of diacetyl can cause popcorn lung.

The campaign against diacetyl was at its height in 2016, prompting regulators in the UK and European Union to impose a ban on it. Manufacturers have also discontinued its use and turned to alternative flavorings ever since.

Should You Be Worried?

The issue need not cause any alarm among ENDS users as most reported cases are tied to strong exposure to diacetyl for a prolonged period of time. There have been no cases that are linked directly with vaping so far. 

While the debate on the safety of ENDS continues, users who are still concerned should make sure to only use products that are regulated. You may check with your manufacturer if the product has gone through all the necessary safety evaluations mandated by the government. It is to ensure that the products you are using are of the highest quality and safety.

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