Does vaping cause popcorn lung?
No. There’s no good evidence that e-cigarettes could cause the lung condition called popcorn lung. There’s been no confirmed cases of popcorn lung reported in people who use e-cigarettes.
What is popcorn lung?
Popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans) is a type of lung disease, but it is not cancer. Although popcorn lung is very rare, some e-cigarette users may worry about it.
A link between breathing in a chemical called diacetyl was made when a group of popcorn factory workers were found to have the rare condition. It was not related to use of e-cigarettes. And more research is needed on the apparent link between diacetyl and popcorn lung. This includes the amount of the chemical at which any damage might occur.
What does the evidence really say about diacetyl and e-cigarettes?
A single US study published in 2016 looked at whether e-cigarette liquids available at the time contained diacetyl. It found that 39 of the 51 e-liquid flavours tested contained some level of diacetyl. The idea that e-cigarettes could cause popcorn lung came from this study.
However, this study didn’t look at whether there was a link between e-cigarette use and popcorn lung in people. So far, there’s no good evidence that e-cigarettes could cause popcorn lung.
In the UK, diacetyl was banned in e-cigarette liquids under the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in 2016. So, e-liquids sold in the UK shouldn’t contain diacetyl.
E-cigarettes are a relatively new product – they aren’t risk-free and we don’t yet know their long-term impact. We strongly discourage people who haven’t smoked from using them. But research so far shows that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco, and can help people to stop smoking. For the best chance of quitting, get support from a Stop Smoking Service, who can help you find the right tools for you.
Allen, J. G. et al. Flavoring Chemicals in E-Cigarettes: Diacetyl, 2,3-Pentanedione, and Acetoin in a Sample of 51 Products, Including Fruit-, Candy-, and Cocktail-Flavored E-Cigarettes. Environ. Health. Persp. 124, 733–739 (2016).
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Fixed obstructive lung disease in workers at a microwave popcorn factory--Missouri, 2000-2002. Morb. Moral. Wkly. Rep. 51, 345-347 (2002).
NHS UK. Flavourings found in e-cigarettes linked to ‘popcorn lung’ (2017). https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/flavouring-found-in-e-cigarettes-linked-to-popcorn-lung/