E-Liquids - The Truth about Scary Stories in the Media
Recently there have been increasing reports in the mainstream media that discuss a variety of cases of pneumonia and similar conditions that are mostly in the United States of America, and haven been attributed to factors which the mainstream British media has simplified to "E-Liquids". It's important to know right away, that a lot of important information is being omitted.
Firstly, we are not here to just counter these stories for the sake of this business. We care about our customer's health and if we felt our products were harmful we would cease to offer them. What we can do is try to shed some light on the whole issue to try and show the actual truth of the matter, rather than biased or embellished news stories designed to sell papers and/or possibly may be "encouraged" by the notoriously creative tobacco industry, who stand to benefit from any consumer fear of E-Liquids the most. (1)
What is Being Omitted?
What should be most concerning is that almost all of these cases are in the USA. This may be no coincidence, as here in the EU, regulations are far tighter on E-liquids with a level of regulation equivalent to traditional tobacco products. In the USA, there is also the "Cannabis" factor. Many of cases reported on involved the affected person vaping THC containing cannabis oil, which may or may not have been designed for vaping, and if they were, there is no regulatory control over such products, because the US Government still classifies it as a dangerous illegal drug, there are no national safety standards or regulations. (2). The other piece of information omitted is that the cases reported are mostly attributed to non-regulated e-liquids. In the EU, E-Liquids must confirm to a strich quality-assurance regulation known as TPD.
What may be causing the illnesses in the USA?
The best way to stress the importance of the TPD regulation is to compare the product of E-Liquids to that of food products. In the UK we are all familiar with the strict hygiene regulations that govern our food preparation industry. This is because we can all easily appreciated how lapses in hygiene can make us seriously ill, or even worse, can be fatal. All businesses that prepare food must display a 5 star hygiene rating, and pass regular surprise inspections. When you step back and think about this for a minute, its becomes almost absurd that people would want to buy un-regulated "homemade/DIY" E-Liquids. With food, even if it has been prepared in a less than sanitary manner, our body has numerous defences, including taste, texture, visual inspections of the food - you wouldn't eat a piece of cake with mould on it, or drink a latte with a fly in it. Even so, as these products are going into a bag filled with super-strong acid, and a gut system teaming with friendly-bacteria, its possible it wouldn't even make you ill. It takes a fair bit of wrongdoing to make us ill from eating. Not so with our lungs. When you vape, you are taking in a mixture of chemicals deep into your lungs, which have only one defence - mucus. Mucus protects against particulates and any inhaled debris, but it can not prevent any contamination contained with the E-Liquid from reaching the small air sacs deep within your lungs, and this is where the problem in the USA arises. (3)
If the E-Liquid is not made from quality-assured ingredients, from the Propylene Glycol, Glycerine to the flavours used, and also prepared in a strict manner in a clean, dust-free, pest-controlled, air-conditioned environment complete with staff who adhere to strict hygiene procedures, then the product you inhale deep into the most delicate part of your entire body, could transport with it, something nasty, and potentially very deadly.
In this case, your lungs will begin to react to this contamination which will become very quickly an infection. This leads to pneumonia, and this can easily be fatal. It has also been shown that some contaminants brought into the lungs in this manner can deposit fats (lipids) in the airways, which can actually damage tissue permanently, leading to lung failure and the need for a lung transplant.
Why this is unlikely to be the case in the UK.
The two main ingredients used in E-Liquid production are Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerine. Our parent company, F-JAS uses these very ingredients in the manufacture of air fresheners, fragrance oil, screen wash and other cleaning products. As a result, Nicotech E-Liquids are not made in the same building. This is because the type of PG and VG that F-JAS uses, is a general-purpose grade that is significantly cheaper than the food-grade equivalents needed for TPD-approved E-liquid production. The cheaper PG and VG may contain debris, dust, insects, and other contaminants that will be filtered out and any contamination protected with preservative before using in cleaning products. AS you can imagine, there are plenty of business-owners out there that would secretly use the cheaper ingredients not intended for E-Liquids, without a care for the harm it would cause customers.
In the UK, E-Liquids must be TPD-approved, which means the correct grade of PG and VG must be used, documented and traced, and in addition to this, stored, decanted and used in an approved manner also.
The second issue with unregulated E-Liquids is the flavours. Flavours have become a huge selling point for E-Liquids, and have been associated with the illegal promotion of E-liquids to young people. Flavours used in E-Liquids are a big worry regarding the health impacts of vaping. Little research has been done on the subject. There is a huge worry that unregulated makers of E-Liquids do not understand flavours, and in some cases there is evidence that fragrance oils (designed for adding scent to candles amongst other things, and which often come in food or sweets fragrances such as Candy Floss or Bubblegum) have been mistaken for flavours. Flavours added to E-Liquids are typically very similar to fragrance oils, being blends of aromatic hydrocarbons (or chemicals that have a taste similar to the food). This is because you can't put "Candy Floss" into the e-liquid, to get that flavour, you use aromatic compounds derived from crude oil that have a similar taste to Candy Floss. Of course, the safety of vaping these aromatic compounds is understood poorly, and as such only a small selection of flavours will pass TPD approval. In the USA, there is evidence that the flavour aspect is an absolute minefield with lack of understanding all round and little regard for safety. On the consumer side, there is a worry that people are vaping fragrance oils by mistake, or flavours made with incorrect ingredients. Without regulation, it's easy to see why so many people are getting ill in the USA.
The third issue is Nicotine. In the UK there is a maximum allowed percentage of Nicotine in the E-Liquid at 20mg/Ml. This is there to ensure safety as Nicotine can be overdosed on. Many unregulated E-Liquids get around regulations by supplying the Nicotine in a separate bottle. This is a cause for concern as the potential for overdose is placed in the consumers hands, and a mistake could cause a serious problem. In the USA, Nicotine is usually added to the vape juice by the vapist. Many of the cases of poor health in the USA could potentially have been influenced by mishandling Nicotine, as overdosing can cause the same symptoms as experienced by the people in the news reports (4)
The final issue is THC and cannabis. This is not allowed in the UK, and is far less prevalent as an additive due to its illegal status, but has been a constant feature of the reported cases of illnesses in the USA, and could be down to lack of quality procedures, potential overdoses, or contamination. Once again, THC and Marijuana have been shown to cause the same symptoms as experienced by the people in the reported cases. (5)
What is TPD Approval?
The Tobacco Product Directive assures the quality and safety of E-Liquids on sale in the UK. All of the potential issues we have talked about in this article are regulated under TPD, and assure the customer that all quality procedures are being followed and the product you are getting is as safe as possible. All Nicotech E-Liquids are TPD approved.
From the government:
The TPD introduced new rules which ensure:
minimum standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refill containers (otherwise known as e-liquids)
that information is provided to consumers so that they can make informed choices
an environment that protects children from starting to use these products.
From 20 May 2017, the new requirements:
restrict e-cigarette tanks to a capacity of no more than 2ml
restrict the maximum volume of nicotine-containing e-liquid for sale in one refill container to 10ml
restrict e-liquids to a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml
require nicotine-containing products or their packaging to be child-resistant and tamper evident
ban certain ingredients including colourings, caffeine and taurine
include new labelling requirements and warnings
require all e-cigarettes and e-liquids be notified to MHRA before they can be sold
Consumers and healthcare professionals can report side effects and safety concerns with e-cigarettes or refill containers to MHRA through the Yellow Card reporting system. You can also report products suspected to be defective or non-compliant to your local Trading Standards or to TPDsafety@mhra.gov.uk.
(1)(https://www.racefans.net/2019/02/13/how-tobacco-brands-are-returning-to-f1-by-the-back-door/). Tobacco Brands Returning to F1 Through Back Door
(2)(https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/27/vaping-lung-disease-regulation-1686396) Regulation and Vaping in the USA
(3) (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-vaping-damage-your-lungs-what-we-do-and-dont-know-2019090417734) How Vaping Can Damage Your Lungs
(4)(https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319627.php) Nicotine overdose symptoms
(5)(https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/marijuana-and-lung-health.html) How THC and Marijuana Affect Your Lungs