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Up to 95% of people who develop severe 'popcorn lung' as a result of vaping will DIE


While some may see vape and e-cigarette devices as safe alternatives to cigarettes, experts warn that users can develop the devastating condition ‘popcorn lung’ – and that those who suffer the most severe case are unlikely to survive.

Bronchiolitis obliterans, the official medical diagnosis for popcorn lung, occurs when a person’s lungs become significantly scarred due to the inhalation of dangerous chemicals or via an infection of some sort. 

Experts are warning that many users of electronic nicotine devices – like Juuls – are developing the condition at alarming rates, especially at younger ages where these types of conditions are rare.

Dr Panagis Galiatsatos, director of the Tobacco Treatment Clinic at Johns Hopkins University tells DailyMail.com that those who suffer the most severe cases of the condition will likely die from respiratory failure within five years of it developing.

Controversy around these devices has reemerged in recent weeks after the Food and Drug Administration chose to pull Juul products from shelves, before allowing the company temporary reprieve as it reevaluated its decision.

Experts was that users of vape and e-cigarette nicotine devices are vulnerable to developing 'popcorn lung', a condition that could require a lung transplant and even result in death in more severe cases (file photo)

Experts was that users of vape and e-cigarette nicotine devices are vulnerable to developing ‘popcorn lung’, a condition that could require a lung transplant and even result in death in more severe cases (file photo)

‘Whether it’s vaping, e-cigarettes or combustible cigarettes. They all come with noxious chemicals that exploit the addictive properties of nicotine,’ Galiatsatos said.

Many companies who market these products claim their value lies in helping users of combustible tobacco products – like cigarettes – instead use a safer alternative.

Tobacco is dangerous on its own and cigarettes also have many other chemicals in them that put users at risk of multiple types of cancer, cardio vascular conditions and more health defects.

Nicotine is the substance that a user will actually become addicted to, though, and removing the rest of the dangerous chemicals and just letting a person use the drug on its own is safer – according to e-cigarette and vape manufacturers.

Dr Panagis Galiatsatos, director of the Tobacco Treatment Clinic at Johns Hopkins, warns that the five year mortality rate of popcorn lung could be as high as 95%

Dr Panagis Galiatsatos, director of the Tobacco Treatment Clinic at Johns Hopkins, warns that the five year mortality rate of popcorn lung could be as high as 95%

Some experts are sounding the alarm that this is not quite the case, though.

‘Often times you hear that using e-cigarettes or vaping is less problematic of a nicotine delivery device. But it has its own set of potential health problems that go with it,’ Dr Clayton Cowl, a pulmonologist at the Mayo Clinic, told DailyMail.com.

‘The problem with many of the newer devices coming out is that it is not just about nicotine it is about other products that can be placed within those devices that when aerosolized can create significant health related problems.’

He described it as ‘picking your poison’ as to which dangerous device a person would want to use.

Like cigarettes, the main danger of these products is not the nicotine itself but the many other chemicals mixed in with it.

Diacetyl is a chemical commonly used in flavoring for food. When consumed orally it is perfectly safe.

When vaporized, it is extremely harmful to the lungs of someone that inhales it and continued exposure can cause disastrous long-term health issues. 

It’s link to bronchiolitis obliterans was discovered in the early 2000s, when employees of a Missouri popcorn factory suddenly began to develop the condition.

An investigation revealed that the diacetyl used to flavor the popcorn was at fault, hence the ‘popcorn lung’ moniker.

Diacetyl is also used as a flavoring agent in many electronic nicotine products.

‘It’s as brutal as disease as it sounds… if you develop it you have a 95 percent of dying within five years,’ Galiatsatos said, adding that it is more lethal than lung cancer – the disease most commonly associated with nicotine use.

Those who suffer from the disease will often feel symptoms similar to asthma or COPD. Shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain at times.

The condition occurs when the bronchioles of the lungs become inflamed or scarred in some way and make it harder for a person to breathe.

Cases can be hard to diagnose as they are usually believed to be asthma. Luckily, many of the treatments that help a person manage popcorn lung are the same as asthma.

Dr Clayton Cowl, a pulmonologist at the Mayo Clinic, says that switching from cigarettes to vapes is like 'picking your poison', not moving to something safer as some would believe

Dr Clayton Cowl, a pulmonologist at the Mayo Clinic, says that switching from cigarettes to vapes is like ‘picking your poison’, not moving to something safer as some would believe

More severe cases can often require a lung transplant and even result in death, especially if doctors are late to realize it.

Galiatsatos fears that the medical field will see a surge in respiratory issues in the coming decades.

These conditions take years to develop, but so many children beginning to use these dangerous devices this young means that many may already have two decades of damage to their lungs by the time they turn 40 – an age considered too young to suffer these types of severe issues.

Preventing spikes in popcorn lung and other conditions tied to nicotine use have become a priority for U.S. regulators in recent years.

To limit rises in teen smoking, the FDA banned fruit flavored e-cigarette devices, and forced each company to apply individually to allow their products to remain on shelves. 

Juul Labs, whose products became the face of the dangerous underage smoking trend after they shot to popularity in the 2010s, had its application rejected by the FDA last month.

The devices were temporarily pulled from shelves before the FDA issued a stay on its decision to give the agency time to review more scientific evidence.

Galiatsatos believes these bans are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done culturally.

The fruit and mint flavor of these devices has attracted children into using them, and while getting rid of them could prevent some from picking up the devices – Galiatsatos warns that they have already earned the aura of being ‘cool’.

Like cigarettes in previous decades, many younger people now think it is cool to use devices like Juuls and will proceed to do so even if it is not enjoyable. 

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