What’s really going on in America and why British Vapers shouldn’t be worried?

Vaping in the USA is a total mess. There isn’t really any way to dress it up. From the nature of their regulatory system, to the implementation of recent bans, fake news and everything between; it’s pretty hard for anyone to make sense of it all.

So, what’s the actual story and should you be worried?

Media Hype

The UK press are as guilty as the American press for jumping on the bandwagon and spreading fear based on half truths and bad science. It’s no wonder people are scratching their heads in the UK and wondering if vaping has a future at all. The facts of vaping are supported by major health bodies such as Public Health England, Cancer Research UK and anti-smoking groups such as Action on Smoking and Health (ASH.

Vaping (with regulated products) is 95% less harmful than smoking.2

What is the difference between US vaping products and UK/EU products?

Regulation. Pure and simple. The UK has one of the most rigorous regulatory systems for e-cigarettes anywhere in the world. The regulation in the USA predominantly focuses on age restriction, rather than ingredient control, and as a result there is enormous variation in the quality and strength of liquids.

Some e-liquids produced in the USA use chemicals that are banned here, such as; Diacetyl. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Vitamin E Acetate have been used on the black-market in the USA and have been directly linked to the outbreak of vaping related deaths and illnesses – both of these are banned here in the UK. We also regulate against the volume of e-liquid containing 18mg/ml or more of Nicotine. Many USA liquids contain 3 times the amount of Nicotine than UK liquids.

Diacetyl is the chemical found in flavouring that produces a buttery taste.

THC is the psychogenic element found in marijuana.

Vitamin E Acetate is used as a binding agent (to increase potency/make the THC oil go further). Vitamin E Acetate leaves behind a honey type liquid in the lungs causing serious, often life threatening, lung damage.

What is making people so sick in the US?

An alarming number of people are getting sick in America as a result of vaping and the root causes are often the same – using black-market/homemade e-liquid which often contain dangerous compounds for diluting or thickening the liquid. The difference between US and UK vaping products and regulations is huge. From ingredients, to the availability of black-market product, and the accessibility of dangerous chemicals/additives. While the specific ingredient(s) have yet to be identified, the American authorities have narrowed their focus to Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil and Vitamin E Acetate. In almost all reported cases, THC compounds were found in the lung excretions of patients.6

Popcorn Lung and its connection to vaping

Popcorn Lung is the nickname for bronchiolitis obliterans and is a VERY RARE condition (even in the USA) that damages your lungs’ smallest airways and makes you cough and feel short of breath. It’s sometimes caused by breathing in a chemical used to flavour microwave popcorn.

Your lungs are where your blood picks up oxygen before carrying it to cells in the rest of your body. When you breathe in, air flows into your lungs through your windpipe, or trachea. Your windpipe divides into two tubes called the bronchi, which lead to your left and right lungs. Inside your lungs, those tubes split again and again, like the branches of a tree. The smallest of those branches are called bronchioles, and they end in tiny air sacs called alveoli. The alveoli are where the oxygen is picked up by your blood.

When you have Popcorn Lung, those tiny air passages get irritated and inflamed. That leads to scarring that makes them narrower. That makes it harder for you to get enough air.13  The damage caused by Popcorn Lung is often irreversible.

What causes Popcorn Lung?

Diacetyl is the chemical found in flavouring that produced a buttery taste and is frequently associated  with causing Popcorn Lung but other chemicals, or lung illnesses, can also cause Popcorn Lung. The name Popcorn Lung came about after workers at a popcorn factory were found to have bronchiolitis obliterans more often than most people. Diacetyl is banned in the UK.  However, it was detected in some e-liquid flavourings in the past, but at concentrations hundreds of times lower than is necessary to result in lung damage. Even smoking is not a major risk for this rare disease.1

Are fruity flavours encouraging kids to vape?

The facts speak for themselves. Public Health England (PHE) have reviewed2 the data and commissioned their own studies and to date there is no evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking for kids, nor has it been proved that fruity flavours encourage children to vape. The stories currently doing the rounds are based on anecdotal evidence. The recent ban on flavours in the USA is a knee-jerk reaction to the increasing problem of youth vaping (particularly black-market vaping). We do not have the same issues with kids vaping here in the UK.

However, liquid Nicotine is highly toxic when swallowed, hence the classification as a toxin you will see on the packaging of all regulated e-liquids which contain 18mg/ml or more of Nicotine. Common sense demands that we should keep all vaping related materials out of reach of children.


The root of the vaping issues in the States is almost exclusively down to black-market vaping.  Who knows what horrors are lurking in black-market products here in the UK (or anywhere for that matter)? There is a reason why UK vapers haven’t been affected in the same way as our American cousins. Regulation. If you want to stay safe, NEVER buy black-market product or try to make your own. It’s just not worth it.

Regulated vaping in the UK is 95% less harmful than smoking.2  End of.



  1. WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD (2019)
  2. McNeill, A. et al. Evidence review of e- cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018. A report commissioned by Public Health England (2018).

Joanne Emmerson FCIM
Head of Marketing, Ibiza Vape Club

Joanne is a fellow of the Royal Chartered Institute of Marketing and has 30+ years marketing experience. She has worked all around the world, is published in 7 countries and teaches marketing communication theory at Post Graduate level both in the UK and USA. She has worked alongside many government bodies, health organisations and national charities.