E-cigarettes Can Cause Popcorn Lung?

E-cigarettes Can Cause Popcorn Lung?

The e-cigarette market is a multi-billion pound industry and will continue to grow. For many people, vaping is now a part of everyday life and it is very common to see someone using one of these devices while walking down a busy street these days. Medical experts believe that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than traditional cigarettes. However, there are still some uncertainties about e-cigarettes and their possible side effects. One theory is that e-cigarettes may lead to a little-known disease called “popcorn lung”.

E-cigarettes Can Cause Popcorn Lung?But what is popcorn lung?

Popcorn lung is a slang term to describe a disease called bronchiolitis obliterans (BO).
BO is caused by inhaled chemicals. They can leave scars in the lungs which prevent them from working properly, reducing their ability and efficiency.

The symptoms of BO include dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and tiredness. The condition is similar to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease  and is commonly diagnosed as this, as to diagnose BO a lung biopsy is required. One of the inhaled chemicals related to the cause of popcorn lung is Diacetyl. Diacetyl is a chemical used in many processed foods that can give them a buttery or creamy flavor.

In the past, manufacturers used it to give popcorn buttery taste. In 2002, eight cases of irreversible lung disease were recorded in people working in a popcorn factory of Missouri from 1992 to 2000. This is where the disease’s name comes from. In addition to the discovery in food, the chemical was also in the flavoring of e-liquids in e-cigarettes.

So, doe e-cigarettes cause popcorn lung?

Experts don’t think so. Dr. Lion Shahab, a senior lecturer in health psychology at the University College of London, said we can find Diacetyl in some e-liquids, but the level of it is actually much lower than that in cigarettes.

E-cigarettes Can Cause Popcorn Lung?He said Diacetyl has been linked with popcorn. Because it is a kind flavoring agent that gives popcorn a buttery flavor and has been linked to a lung disease Bronchiolitis Obliterans, which is not dissimilar to COPD in those exposed to it through work. However, although some flavorings found in e-liquids contain these chemicals, it is much lower than that found in traditional cigarette smoke. Exposure for smokers is at least 85 times higher. But, more importantly, there is no reliable link between exposure to these chemicals through smoking cigarettes and popcorn lung.

Therefore, given that exposure to these chemicals is much lower in vapers and only present in some e-juices and that even higher levels of exposure through cigarette smoking does not cause Bronchiolitis obliterans, the use of e-cigarettes will not lead to popcorn lung.

It is a theoretical, not actual, risk. In fact, there is no case that the use of e-cigarettes is linked to popcorn lung in literature.”


Ryan is a writer, editor and content creator who spends most of his time bringing the interesting, entertaining, original and well-written articles to vapers. He believes that vaping is not only a healthier alternative to smoking, but also a great experience of life.