I can’t blame any reader of this article for throwing their arms in the air and screaming. I’d kind of like to do it myself. There are just no easy answers to the questions about vaping, diketones, and popcorn lung. But we can make some good guesses.
Despite the confounding factor of widespread COPD (and other obstructive lung conditions) in smokers, there has been no observed trend of vapers developing obliterative bronchiolitis. Since this is a regular feature of e-cig scare stories in the news, it seems quite likely that if vaping was causing popcorn lung, we’d have seen at least one report of it by now.
After all, people have been using e-cigarettes regularly for over a decade now, and BO observed in flavoring factory workers developed rapidly — in less than two years. On the other hand, if a vaper did develop popcorn lung, we would be confronted with trying to separate their smoking and vaping histories. More confusion — but so far just potential confusion.
If you’re a smoker considering vaping as a safer alternative, you can take some comfort in the fact that far smarter people than me have thought about this issue. The Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England have both weighed all of the evidence on e-cigarette hazards –including the danger of popcorn lung — and both have concluded that vaping is a much better choice than smoking, and have encouraged doctors to recommend e-cigs to their smoking patients.
The bottom line is that there is no current evidence suggesting vaping causes popcorn lung. That doesn’t mean that it might not cause some related disease that has yet to appear. But the likelihood of that seems small. Compared to the known dangers of smoking, vaping is relatively safe. And that is the only relevant comparison, because vaping is meant to be a smoking substitute.