Health & Lifestyle

E-cigs linked to FIVE deaths in Britain as experts warn shock toll is ‘only tip of the iceberg’

E-cigarettes have been linked to five deaths in Britain, MailOnline can reveal today.

None of the fatalities, which have all occurred since 2010, are proven to have been caused directly by vaping. No ages were mentioned for any of the deaths.

But health chiefs tasked with policing the safety of e-cigs admit there is ‘a suspicion’ the gadgets may have been to blame.

Two were put down to heart disorders, including one cardiac arrest.

Respiratory complications were blamed for the other three deaths, with one caused by inhalation of fat — a known potential consequence of vaping.

Almost 1,000 serious adverse reactions to e-cigs have been logged by Britain's health watchdog including blood, nervous system and respiratory disorders, as well as cancer and injuries like burns. This includes five deaths linked to the devices. Latest figures show the proportion of adults using e-cigs in the UK increased last year to the highest rate on record, at 8.3 per cent, according to the charity Action on Smoking and Health. This accounts for the roughly 4.3million people across the country

Almost 1,000 serious adverse reactions to e-cigs have been logged by Britain’s health watchdog including blood, nervous system and respiratory disorders, as well as cancer and injuries like burns. This includes five deaths linked to the devices. Latest figures show the proportion of adults using e-cigs in the UK increased last year to the highest rate on record, at 8.3 per cent, according to the charity Action on Smoking and Health. This accounts for the roughly 4.3million people across the country

Almost 1,000 serious adverse reactions to e-cigs have also been logged by Britain’s health watchdog including blood, nervous system and respiratory disorders, as well as cancer and injuries such as burns.

Leading experts today told MailOnline the figures we uncovered ’emphasise vaping is not safe’ and warned the data may only represent ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

But others insisted the gadgets are ‘substantially less harmful than smoking’.

It comes amid growing fears over Britain’s burgeoning child vaping crisis, with rates having doubled within years.’

Colourful displays of the gadgets, sold for as little as £5, litter high streets across the UK. 

Two  of the five deaths were put down to heart disorders, including one cardiac arrest. Respiratory complications were blamed for the others, with one caused by inhalation of fat ¿ a known potential consequence of vaping

Two  of the five deaths were put down to heart disorders, including one cardiac arrest. Respiratory complications were blamed for the others, with one caused by inhalation of fat — a known potential consequence of vaping

Predatory manufacturers lure kids in with flavours such as bubblegum and cotton candy and some shops even sell the devices next to sweets.

Rishi Sunak has vowed to crackdown on the crisis. 

Other experts have also demanded a total ban on disposable vapes such as Elf bars, popular with teenagers. New Zealand has already announced such a move.

The five fatalities from vaping are logged through the Yellow Card system, set up in the 1960s in the wake of the thalidomide scandal.

Officials use the same database to track the safety of Covid vaccines.

It allows doctors, pharmacists and patients themselves to report adverse reactions believed to be caused by prescription and over-the-counter drugs, implants and alternative medicines.

This can lead to them being reviewed, having warnings added to the label or even being taken off the market.

Since 2016, the scheme, run by The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has also covered e-cigarettes and refill containers.

However, a yellow card report – named after the yellow forms initially used in the 1960s – does not prove the product in question was to blame.

Regarding e-cigs, the MHRA says: ‘It may be difficult to tell the difference between something that has occurred naturally and an adverse reaction.

‘Sometimes reactions can be part of an underlying condition rather than being caused by the e-cigarette.’

It adds: ‘Many factors have to be considered when assessing whether an e-cigarette has caused a reported adverse reaction.’ 

Shock data last month revealed a record 11.6 per cent of 11 to 17-year-olds in Britain have now tried vaping. This is up on 7.7 per cent last year and twice as high as rates seen a decade ago ¿ before the UK's kid vaping epidemic blew up

Shock data last month revealed a record 11.6 per cent of 11 to 17-year-olds in Britain have now tried vaping. This is up on 7.7 per cent last year and twice as high as rates seen a decade ago ¿ before the UK’s kid vaping epidemic blew up

NHS Digital data, based on the smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England survey for the year 2021, showed 30 per cent of children in Yorkshire and the Humber have used a vape

NHS Digital data, based on the smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England survey for the year 2021, showed 30 per cent of children in Yorkshire and the Humber have used a vape 

Experts however fear the true toll of vaping adverse reactions could be far higher if swathes of the population are unaware of the yellow card scheme.  

Authorities track the database closely to spot any ‘potential patterns of concern’.

Similar issues surrounding blood clots caused by AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine were found months into the historic immunisation drive.

According to the drug watchdog’s 25-page document of adverse reactions for e-cigs, some 942 reports of reactions have been logged since January 1, 2010. 

Almost half (405) of all reports logged cited respiratory disorders, including 47 with oropharyngeal pain and 57 with shortness of breath. 

Some 120 were for gastrointestinal disorders, while 114 general disorders, including chest pain, fatigue and malaise, were also noted. 

One report of laryngeal cancer, three of atrial fibrillation – a condition that causes an irregular heart rate – and one anaphylactic shock, were also logged by the MHRA. 

An MHRA spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We keep the safety of e-cigarettes under close review and convene working groups when required to review data and evidence surrounding suspected adverse reactions associated with e-cigarette usage.’

They added: ‘If you have purchased a product that is not published on our website, you should return it to the retailer or your local trading standards service.

‘If you experience an adverse effect from use of a nicotine-containing e-cigarette product, please report it to us via our yellow card scheme. 

‘It is important to note that a report of an adverse reaction does not necessarily mean that the e-cigarette has caused the reaction, only that the submitter suspects it may have. 

‘Many factors have to be considered when assessing whether an e-cigarette has caused a reported adverse reaction.’

In 2019, a 57-year-old British factory worker was named as the first e-cig user in the world feared to have developed a fatal disease directly linked to his vaping habit.

Terry Miller, 57, from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, died in 2010 after developing lipoid pneumonia, with medics confirming oil from vaping fluid was found in his lungs.

After smoking around 20 cigarettes a day for 41 years, he decided to give up and bought an e-cigarette from his local pharmacy, believing it was an healthier option. 

He began vaping every day and would often buy nicotine liquid refills and new e-cigarettes on the internet from a company based in the South of England. 

But around eight months after he switched to vaping in 2010, Terry’s lungs began to fail and he was diagnosed with fibrosis. 

E-cigs allow people to inhale nicotine in a vapour — which is produced by heating a liquid, which typically contains propylene glycol, glycerine, flavourings, and other chemicals.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, they do not contain tobacco, nor do they produce tar or carbon — two of the most dangerous elements.

In 2019, a 57-year-old British factory worker was named as the first e-cig user in the world feared to have developed a fatal disease directly linked to his vaping habit. Terry Miller (pictured), 57, from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, died in 2010 after developing lipoid pneumonia, with medics confirming oil from vaping fluid was found in his lungs

In 2019, a 57-year-old British factory worker was named as the first e-cig user in the world feared to have developed a fatal disease directly linked to his vaping habit. Terry Miller (pictured), 57, from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, died in 2010 after developing lipoid pneumonia, with medics confirming oil from vaping fluid was found in his lungs

Tests on e-cigarettes confiscated from youngsters found they contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Some were almost 10 times above safe limits. Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting

Tests on e-cigarettes confiscated from youngsters found they contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Some were almost 10 times above safe limits. Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting

Vaping has risen rapidly over the past decade to reach record levels in the UK, with an estimated 4.3million people who are regular vapers, according to a report last year. 

The data suggested that 8.3 per cent of adults in England, Wales and Scotland vape, up from 1.7 per cent a decade ago, which equated to about 800,000 people. 

Health chiefs say e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of smoking and believe they can play a key role in weaning the remaining five million smokers in Britain off tobacco and putting an end to the killer habit.

Although widely viewed as safer than smoking, the long-term effects of vaping still remain a mystery.

Doctors fear there could be a wave of lung disease, dental issues and even cancer in the coming decades in people who took up the habit at a young age.

Dr Salim Khan, head of department for public health at Birmingham City University, told MailOnline: ‘The MHRA analysis is welcomed as it provides additional evidence of the potential harm that e-cigarettes and vaping can cause.

‘In addition to more than half of the reports relating to respiratory disorders, there are several non-respiratory health events listed which is consistent with published research findings.

He added: ‘Whilst e-cigarettes and vaping are assumed to be the causal factor, it is important to recognise that there may be other contributing factors which could have resulted in the health events listed.

‘It is also important to note that the volume and pattern of adverse respiratory and other health events associated with e-cigarette use or vaping in the UK may not be fully represented by the data.

‘The data may only represent the tip of the iceberg.

‘To establish the potential impact that e-cigarettes and vaping are having on people’s health, we require continued data collection and reporting. We need rigorous evidence that clearly demonstrates the detrimental impact of e-cigarettes and vaping on health.’

Professor Jamie Brown, director of University College London’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, meanwhile told MailOnline: ‘These new data emphasise that vaping is not safe and never smokers should not vape. 

‘However, to put these numbers in context, cigarette smoking causes about 76,000 deaths a year in the UK.

‘So, in the same period, cigarette smoking caused approximately 1million deaths in the UK.’

Prime Candy on Oxford Street, where MailOnline found huge vape displays alongside many different types of American sweets

Prime Candy on Oxford Street, where MailOnline found huge vape displays alongside many different types of American sweets

House of Candy, where a MailOnline investigation found large amounts of vapes advertised in the window, while the shop is packed with sweets

House of Candy, where a MailOnline investigation found large amounts of vapes advertised in the window, while the shop is packed with sweets

Equally, Professor John Britton, who sits on the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Group, said the figures show reactions ‘are very rare’.

He told MailOnline: ‘These reports demonstrate adverse events from vaping, and in particular serious adverse events, are very rare. 

‘In contrast, since 2010 tobacco smoking has killed around one million people. 

‘We can thus be confident that vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking.’ 

Under its position statement, the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Group acknowledges that while e-cigarettes ‘are probably more hazardous than nicotine replacement therapy, the harm is unlikely to exceed 5 per cent of that from smoking tobacco’. 

Mark Oates, founder of consumer advocacy group We Vape, also told MailOnline it is ‘important to keep the MHRA findings in perspective’ but acknowledged the research into the health impact of the devices.

He said: ‘We welcome detailed and continuous research into the health effects of vaping so the safest possible devices are available to smokers trying to quit.

‘Some 4.3million people now vape in the UK and there have been no confirmed deaths as a result. 

‘In contrast, since 2010, more than a million people have been killed by smoking. It’s therefore important to keep the MHRA findings in perspective.

‘Following the Covid vaccine rollout and booster scheme, for example, there were more than 11,500 reports of side effects from the jab using the Government’s yellow card system, yet we didn’t halt a programme that has invariably saved countless lives.’

He added: ‘Vaping is helping millions of people avoid a preventable and often agonising death, around the world, every year from smoking. 

‘This excellent news should not be overlooked when studying self-reported side effects in a significant minority of vapers.’

Earlier this month however, leading paediatricians also warned children were being hospitalised with vaping-induced breathing difficulties amid a ‘disturbing’ youth vaping epidemic.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) warned that e-cigarettes ‘are not a risk-free product and can be just as addictive, if not more so than traditional cigarettes’.

It called for urgent action to protect youngsters, saying experts agree that longer-term data is needed on the effects of vaping, particularly in regard to cardiovascular disease.

Under an anti-smoking push, last month health minister Neil O’Brien revealed a £3million taskforce would be established to enforce the current rules of selling of vapes.

Tom Padley, pictured here when he was 16, said he is angry he was able to get vapes so easily as a child and now suffers health complications from his nicotine addiction

Tom Padley, pictured here when he was 16, said he is angry he was able to get vapes so easily as a child and now suffers health complications from his nicotine addiction 

But one million cigarette addicts will also get e-cigarette ‘starter kits’ as part of a ‘swap to stop’ scheme.

The free kits are set to be offered to almost one in five of all smokers in England at an estimated cost of £45million over two years. 

Health chiefs hope the world-first policy will make England smoke-free.

But Mr O’Brien also acknowledged No10’s ambition to crackdown on the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s as well as the colourful packaging and candy flavours they use to lure kids in.

It is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s but social media carries posts from teenagers showing vapes and discussing flavours such as pink lemonade, strawberry, banana and mango. 

A damning MailOnline expose in April laid bare the true scale of the problem and the marketing tactics of vape retailers trying to target children. 

Tom Padley, now 19, from Putney, London, told MailOnline at the time that he had been using vapes since the age of just 13.

Tom, who picked up the habit in boarding school, said ‘it’s not like cigarettes, where you would have to find a place to go outside and do it — you can just do it non-stop indoors’. 

But six years into vaping, he has begun to suffer health issues.

‘I get ill a lot more. I get ulcers occasionally in my mouth. I have a lot of coughs. I guarantee it’s massively increased due to vaping,’ he told MailOnline.

Last month, the BBC also discovered ‘highlighter vapes’, confiscated from youngsters at a college in Kidderminster, contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium.

The gadgets, which can cost as little as £5, were over 9.6 times the safe level of nickel and 6.6 times the safe level of chromium.

Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting. 

Everything you need to know about e-cigarettes 

How much nicotine is in an e-cigarette?

There are many different brands of e-cigarettes, containing various different nicotine levels.

The legal amount of nicotine in an e-liquid capacity in the UK is 20mg/ml equating to between 600 and 800 puffs.

The Elf Bar 600, one of Britain’s most popular vapes, is advertised as coming in nicotine strengths of 0mg, 10mg and 20mg. 

How many cigarettes are ‘in’ an e-cigarette? 

The Elf Bar 600 contains the equivalent to 48 cigarettes, analysts say. 

It delivers 600 puffs before it needs to be thrown away, meaning, in theory, every 12.5 puffs equate to one cigarette.

Experts say for many e-cigarettes, 100 puffs equate to ten normal cigarettes. 

Elf Bars are a brand of e-cigarettes often sold in snazzy colours and with child-friendly names and flavours, like blue razz lemonade and green gummy bear

Is vaping better for your health than cigarettes?

Vaping products are considered to be better than cigarettes as users are exposed to fewer toxins and at lower levels, according to the NHS.

The health service adds that vaping instead of smoking cigarettes reduces your exposure to toxins that can cause cancer, lung disease and diseases of the heart and circulation, such as strokes and heart attacks. 

Public Health England, which is now defunct, published an expert independent review in 2015 concluding that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.

However vaping is not risk-free, as while levels in tobacco-products are much higher, e-cigarettes still contain harmful toxins, according to a study by researchers from the Medical University of Silesia in Poland.

And Dr Onkar Mudhar, a London dentist who posts videos on TikTok, said Elf bars can cause gum inflammation, swelling and bleeding.

He said this is because nicotine dries out your mouth and reduces saliva, causing irritation from a build-up of bacteria and food that can’t get washed away.

Nearly 350 hospitalisations due to vaping were logged in England in 2022, which are thought to be mainly down to respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, lung inflammation and, in severe cases, respiratory failure. 

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