Is vaping safe?

Is vaping safe?

The vaping industry is under attack. The media is bombarding us with anti-vaping propaganda on a daily basis. So much so that people are now starting to question something that, until a month ago, they knew to be true - that vaping is safer than smoking.

Firstly, for the official record, let us state our position on this. We have never claimed that vaping is 100% safe. No responsible vaping retailer or advocate would ever make such a claim. Vaping isn’t 100% safe - very few things are. What we know to be true, based on all of the available evidence from trusted experts, is that vaping is far safer than smoking. I’ll repeat in case I’ve not been totally clear - vaping is absolutely, unequivocally, categorically, emphatically safer than smoking!

So, if this is the case, why do we hear about each of the 18 people that has died from vaping illicit THC cartridges in America, and not about every single one of the 480,000 American people that die from smoking related illnesses every year? Why are American politicians jumping onto the ‘ban vaping’ bandwagon, but not calling for cigarettes to be made illegal? Why is this being called a ‘vaping crisis’ and not a ‘black market THC’ crisis? Could it possibly be that the agenda is not based on fears for our health and safety? Is it at all possible that their motives are generated by their bank balance? The cynic in me was keen to dig deeper and follow the money!

The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement

Tobacco companies have known since the 50s that smoking is a killer, yet they had never been held to account for their continued promotion of a demonstrably lethal product. The costs associated with caring for smokers with tobacco-related diseases are astronomical and borne by the taxpayer. Then, in 1994, the attorneys for 46 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories sued four major tobacco companies to recoup monies spent, and money they would spend in the future. It was the largest class action lawsuit in US history and, in 1998, a settlement was reached. Known as the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), it resulted in the tobacco companies paying back a minimum of $206 billion in yearly instalments over 25 years.

The interesting part is that the annual payments are based on cigarette consumption, not the profits of the tobacco companies. This means that if smoking rates decline, so do the MSA payments. Since the MSA was put into place, restrictions on advertising, greater public health awareness, an increase in the minimum smoking age, and federal tax increases have all contributed to a rapid downturn in cigarette consumption. This means there is growing uncertainty about the repayment of the MSA. Since some of the states decided to take their MSA payments upfront, in the form of tobacco bonds, if their payments from the tobacco companies fall short, they will be forced to make up the difference to their bondholders.

Bearing this in mind, it’s easy to conclude that State Governors have a vested interest in cigarette usage increasing.

Tobacco stocks on the rise

Another piece of information that isn’t being widely shared by the media is that, since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first threatened the vaping industry, tobacco stocks have been tracking higher. Investors in tobacco stocks have welcomed this clampdown on e-cigarettes as their sale was directly threatening the sale of tobacco products.

According to a statement made to Barron’s (the newspaper published by Dow Jones), the FDA’s announcement is welcome news for tobacco investments. Vivien Azer, Research Analyst at Cowen & Co said,

"Given that big tobacco has yet to find a productive way to meaningfully compete against Juul, an FDA decision to pull flavours from the market would be a notable positive".

Tobacco industry influence and interference

This month, the first ever global index was released which ranks 33 countries based on the level of influence that the tobacco industry has over their governments.

The countries are ranked according to scores across a number of factors, which are:

  1. The tobacco industry's participation in policy development
  2. Tobacco industry-related corporate social responsibility activities
  3. Benefits given to the tobacco industry
  4. Unnecessary interaction between government and industry
  5. Measures for transparency
  6. Preventing conflicts of interest
  7. Measures that prevent industry influence

The lower the score, the lower the overall level of influence that the tobacco industry has over that country.

Countries with the highest score, which include USA, Japan, India, and Indonesia, are also countries where vaping is either banned, or where bans are currently underway.

The country with the lowest score is the UK. Our government receives the least amount of influence from the tobacco industry regarding public policy. This explains why the UK has such a firm stance when it comes to tobacco harm reduction and the role of e-cigarettes in that strategy. It also bodes well for the future of vaping as a legal smoking cessation method in this country.

What does the media have against vaping?

Smoking among adults and young people is at an all time low thanks (in no small part) to vaping. It’s a public health triumph - the media should be shouting it from the rafters. Yet that’s not the story we see. Instead they are choosing to scare us with misleading stories about vaping instead. But why?

The answer lies within the well known expression in journalism…”If it bleeds, it leads!”

Bad news sells. Scandals generate clicks. When money is your driving force, it can remove the inclination to report facts accurately. Especially in these days of social media creating a 24 hour news cycle. Being the first to deliver the news is more important than getting the news right. After all, you can always issue a tiny correction in the bottom corner of page 16 if you get caught out.

Also, journalists are increasingly becoming the messengers of their bosses’ narratives. If their boss, for example, has a vested interest in the success of the tobacco industry, then they become the messenger of any narrative that supports that.

Where’s the proof of an anti-vaping agenda in the media?

To answer that question, let’s look at just a small selection of the scaremongering headlines following the deaths in America:

‘Vaping crisis 'critical' as deaths rise to 18 and cases top 1,000 in US’ - Sky News 4th October

‘The Horror Stories From the Vaping Crisis Are Getting Worse’ - The Cut 4th October

‘Everyone should be alarmed by the vaping crisis’ - Washington Post 9th September

‘Vaping death toll hits 21 and disease cases surge beyond 1,000 as people urged to stop’ - The Sun 7th October

You will notice that I’ve chosen not to link to these stories. That’s because I don’t wish to generate any further traffic for stories that are designed to scare people with what is, quite frankly, deliberately disingenuous language.

You see, delivery methods of dangerous products are never normally put under fire. Do you remember in 2018 when the Tide Pod challenge was a thing? Kids were ‘eating’ laundry detergent on film and challenging others to do the same. Was it a smart thing to do? Of course not! Did the media come out in force against ‘eating’? Of course not!!!

The deaths and illnesses in America aren’t being caused by vaping. They are being caused by the product that is being vaped - namely bootleg THC mixed with vitamin-E acetate. The key word there is ‘bootleg’. These products are already illegal; you can’t ban something that is already illegal!

In fact, just this week the FDA has issued a second warning to stop using the THC products that they know to be causing the lung illnesses and deaths. It's a crystal clear sign that they recognise that vaping in and of itself isn't the issue. Yet the media continues with its 'vaping crisis' narrative. 

Other fake vape news this week

Not content with blasting us with the ‘vaping crisis’, this week saw the release of a particularly pernicious headline:

‘E-cigarette smoke caused lung cancer in mice’ - Daily Mail 7th Oct

A rebuttal by two renowned experts in their field that rubbished the findings was very quickly put into circulation by the Science Media Centre. However, not before countless other news outlets had picked up the nonsense story and run with it. The quote by Mark Twain that ‘a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes’ is especially pertinent in cases like this.

Also, you may have recently seen a headline worded like this….

‘I was so relieved when my husband started vaping…but eight months later he was dead’ - The Sun 4th Oct

To me, it seems as though this highly emotive story was published in order to directly link the UK with the health issues in America. The motive here could be to sully the reputation of organisations like ASH and PHE that have come out in defence of their pro-vaping stance in recent weeks.

In fact, the man in the story started using e-cigarettes in 2009 - a whole 7 years before the UK vaping market was regulated. Furthermore, the cause of death being vaping related is an assumption. There is no proof. This is reported in the body of the story, but you have to read a fair bit before you get to it. By then, the damage of the headline has been done.

Listen to the vaping experts

None of the credible experts are claiming that vaping is 100% safe - rather that it is far safer than smoking. In light of the media pile-on, Public Health England maintained their stance on the matter and released the following statement via a Twitter thread,

“Our advice on e-cigarettes remains unchanged - vaping isn’t completely risk free but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco. There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping.

“All UK e-cigarette products are tightly regulated for quality and safety by @MHRAgovuk [sic]. It’s important to use UK-regulated e-liquids and never risk vaping home-made or illicit e-liquids or adding substances, any of which could be harmful.

“Smoking kills thousands every year & creating a smoke free generation is one of our top priorities. Vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking and makes it much more likely you’ll quit successfully than relying on willpower alone. The sooner you stop smoking completely the better.”

Our advice for UK vapers

  1. Do not be alarmed by misleading media headlines
  2. Do not let the news stories cause you to go back to smoking
  3. Do not vape if you have never smoked
  4. Do not vape if you are under 18
  5. Do use vaping as a method of quitting smoking with the goal to stop both in the long term
  6. Do buy vaping hardware and e-liquids from reputable sources only
  7. Never vape black-market THC cartridges
  8. Never vape any substance that lists vitamin-E acetate as an ingredient
  9. Do read sensible, balanced advice on vaping from organisations like PHE, ASH, British Lung Foundation, and Cancer Research

The safety of vaping takeaways

The pervasive and insidious nature of this obvious media bias against vaping is dangerous. If the media continues to conflate illicit THC cartridges with vaping, they will create a public health disaster. Fear will drive people away from vaping, but the nicotine cravings won’t just go away. So what’s still there for them to fall back on when the cravings get too much? Cigarettes, that’s what!

Public officials in America will try to make you believe that their intentions to ban vaping are in the best interests of you and your children. However, how can this possibly be true when cigarettes are still legal? If you want to know the more likely intentions of these US Governors, follow the money.

In an ideal world, we would have no need for cigarettes - electronic or otherwise. But we don’t live in a perfect world and, while cigarettes are still available, the safer alternative should also be available.


We're here to answer your concerns about vaping

At Vape UK, we pride ourselves on being responsible vaping advocates. We keep up to date with all of the latest news and studies; we supply high quality TPD compliant vaping products; and we are always on hand to offer helpful and honest advice about vaping. Please get in touch if you have any concerns about any of the stories you have seen in the news..

  • Nicola Webster

About the author - Nicola Webster

Nicola Webster works as a researcher, consultant, and content creator for Vape UK and Vape UK CBD. She holds a CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing and has developed her skills and knowledge of analytics and research over a 12 year career in product marketing. Her research led approach to campaigns and content writing ensures the articles she writes for Vape UK always have a basis in fact and cut through the noise. A strong advocate for tobacco harm reduction, Nicola is an ex-smoker thanks to vaping and wants others to understand the benefits of vaping compared to smoking. Outside of content creation and vaping advocacy, Nicola enjoys watching live music, travelling in Southeast Asia, and exploring the beautiful countryside of the South Downs.