‘Popcorn Lung’ disease claim linked to vaping exaggerated, says cardiologist

CAUSEWAY BAY (Hong Kong), Dec 13, 2015:

A recent research finding which suggested that e-cigarette usage could lead users to develop the chronic respiratory condition known as “Popcorn Lung” disease has been blown out of proportion, says a leading cardiologist.

Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, of the University of Patras in Greece, said the recent finding was exaggerated as the report on the matter failed to mention that the chemicals that caused bronchiolitis obliterans, were also present in tobacco cigarette smoke and in larger quantities, too.

Dr Farsalinos was referring to a recent publication in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who evaluated the presence of diacetyl, acetyl propionyl and acetoin in 51 cigarette-like products of different flavours.

The researchers, he pointed out, found at least one of the chemicals in 92% of the samples, with 76% containing diacetyl and recommend urgent action to evaluate the extent of diacetyl exposure from e-cigarettes.

“We did that same study last year and they used our example.

“We found higher levels last year than what they found and those ‘high’ levels were 100 times lower than what was present in tobacco cigarette smoke, so they created, again, this media frenzy,” he said.

Dr Farsalinos said this when met on the sidelines of the “Harm Reduction in Asia – Developing a Regulatory Framework for E-cigarettes Symposium” here on Thursday.

The symposium was organised by regional consumer advocacy group, Factasia.org, in wake of the intense debate over the harm reduction potential of e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative for adult smokers.

The group’s initiative comes at a time when the Hong Kong and Macau governments are considering completely banning the sales of e-cigarettes, with authorities in Malaysia announcing they will regulate rather than ban, and as proposals are expected to be reviewed and voted on by legislators in 2016.

Dr Farsalinos also said there had yet to be a single case of e-cigarette users who had developed the disease, which causes inflammation and scarring to the lungs and constricts breathing, from prolonged use of the device, although it was said that 75% of the vaping liquid refills contained the chemicals involved.

In response to the Harvard study, Dr Farsalinos, in his blogsite, said the article had created false impressions and exaggerated the potential risk from diacetyl and acetyl propionyl exposure through e-cigarettes.

“They failed to mention that these chemicals are present in tobacco cigarette smoke and violated a classical toxicological principle that the amount determines the toxicity and the risk.

“Whether you are healthy or not, smoking will be a much stronger risk factor for health damage compared to any exposure coming from e-cigarettes, at least at the average levels found in our study and the new study,” he wrote.

However, he said he was a strong supporter of removing diacetyl and acetyl propionyl from e-cigarettes.

“Smokers need to be informed about the risk from continuing smoking versus a risk coming from use of diacetyl containing e-liquids.

“We should not forget that the risk of discouraging smokers from using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool is higher than the risk of being exposed to diacetyl and acetyl propionyl at the average levels found in this study,” he said.


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