What is popcorn lung? Warning for vape users

E-cigarettes could soon be prescribed by the NHS to help smokers break the habit.

The regulatory authority for pharmaceuticals and health products is asking manufacturers to submit their products for approval.

If given the green light, England would be the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes as a medical device.

More than six million people in England still smoke cigarettes and this is the leading cause of premature death.

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Quitting smoking before the age of 40 has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from smoking-related diseases by around 90 percent.

The switch from smokers to vapes has been seen as a progressive move toward smoke-free, but it’s not without risk – including the “popcorn lungs.”

Most vapes have nicotine in their cartridges and there is a chance that non-smokers could get stuck in the devices as a first step towards smoking real cigarettes.

But most doctors agree that using e-cigarettes as a smoke-free pathway is a valuable tool. They don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful ingredients in tobacco smoke.

What is popcorn lung?

Popcorn lung, or bronchiolitis obliterans, is a type of lung disease that causes scars in the airways due to inflammation and damages tiny airways called bronchioles.

In 2000, employees at a microwave popcorn factory contracted inhalation of diacetyl, a butter-flavored chemical. Four of the eight workers were sick and on waiting lists for lung transplants.

Inhalation of the chemical has been linked to hundreds of cases of the irreversible lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans.

As a result, major popcorn manufacturers have removed diacetyl from their products.

However, the ingredient remains as a flavor in e-cigarette “juice” cartridges. Researchers at Harvard found that 39 out of 51 e-cigarette brands contained diacetyl in 2016, more than a decade after the popcorn factory scandal.

In the UK, diacetyl in vapes has been banned under the EU Tobacco Products Directive since 2016. But be careful, imported cartridges can still contain the harmful chemical.

For guidance, always check the packaging and ingredients list before using it.

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