Health Experts Rebut Latest Media Vaping Scare Story

Oh my here we go again and just days after Public Health England backs vaping as a considerably healthier option to smoking – the media is at it again with scare stories around vaping and in this case e-cigs will give you pneumonia.

Banner headlines in the newspapers and the usual outcry on social media – blogs and news sites are once again crowing with delight at yet another apparent nail in the coffin of vaping.


OK and once again let’s rebut this one as we have been able to do all the other obscure studies – research and mad scientist experiments that pop up on almost a weekly basis.

Let’s just pick one of the bastions of honest news gathering reporting on this today and the newspaper that sells the most in the UK – and I hate to even mentuion its’ name but it’s the Sun *shudders*.

Under the headline:

Vaping Bad: People who use e-cigarettes are ‘more likely to get pneumonia’, research suggests.

Most people take in a headline – read around 35 words – then move on – but the job is done and that story even if there’s rebuttals further down [there isn’t] the info is stored away in the readers mind.

OK so whats the REAL story morning glory?

The Truth Behind The Pneumonia Scare Stories

This particular piece of research actually comes from what many might say is a reputable source – the Queen Mary University of London.

Lead researcher Professor Jonathan Grigg says:

Pneumococcal bacteria can exist in our airways without causing illness.

However, in some cases, they can invade the lining cells causing pneumonia or septicaemia.

OK so those in the know er know this – so what did the study entail?

man vaping vape pen

The scientists looked at the effect e-cig vapour had on cells taken from the airway and found the levels PAFR [Platelet-activating factor receptor] when exposed to nicotine and non-nicotine based vapour were three times higher.

Professor Grigg said this meant bacteria sticking to the airways doubled adding:

Together, these results suggest that vaping makes the airways more vulnerable to bacteria sticking to airway lining cells.

If this occurs when a vaper gets exposed to the pneumococcal bacterium, this could increase the risk of infection.

The study was published yesterday in the obviously widely read European Respiratory Journal under the grand title: E-cigarette vapour enhances pneumococcal adherence to airway epithelial cells.

Another page turner ticked off my list…

OK in all seriousness it all sounds plausible – but I’m obviously no scientist – so what do the EXPERTS that have studied vaping and the effect it has on the body have to say about this latest media scare story?

Health Experts Rebut Findings

And come to that why did I say vaping might even prevent pneumonia?

Over to Prof. Peter Hajek – Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit QMUL who said:

It is a shame that the study did not compare the cellular effects with effects of smoking. Effects of e-cigarette aerosol were compared with effects of clean air, but smoking is the more important comparator.

It is not clear though if there is any cause for alarm in these findings, whatever the comparator.

The most relevant part of the paper concerns cells taken from people who do not smoke or vape and from vapers before and after vaping. Here, there was no difference in PARF expression between vapers and non-vapers in the main samples!


The study only noticed a transient acute effect after vaping and it is not clear how this may translate into any health effects.

Data from people, as opposed to cells and animals that are exposed in very different ways, show no sign that vaping makes vapers more vulnerable to infection.

They actually point in the opposite direction –

[bctt tweet=”Previous work suggests smokers who switched from smoking to vaping report no increase, but in fact a significant decrease in respiratory infections.” username=”ecigclick”]

Did you catch that?

…previous work suggests smokers who switched from smoking to vaping report no increase, but in fact a significant decrease in respiratory infections…

I’ll just leave that there…hanging…

Next up to make the case against this latest scary anti-vape story is Prof. Peter Opensha – Professor of Experimental Medicine – Imperial College London who pointed out these were cells once agaion grown from mice and obviously not humans…

The results from this study in cells grown in the lab and in mice suggest that vaping might make the cells lining the airways stickier and therefore more susceptible to bacterial colonisation, but the evidence that vaping might increase the risk of lung infection in people is only indirect.

Although it is possible that vaping might increase susceptibility to pneumonia, the effect is likely to be lower than from smoking itself. We need further research to determine the effect of vaping on susceptibility to pneumonia in comparison to smokers.

This might be supported by research studies of volunteers who vape, smoke or do neither, and are exposed to pneumococcal bacteria.

This study should not be used as a reason to continue to smoke rather than vape – the evidence to date is that E-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking.

Once again when you remove the headlines and delve deeper into the research or findings – once again we see the truth behind the smokescreen – pun intended.

I wrote a piece about this in the Vaping News back in December which looked at results from the longest ever study of the effect of vaping on lung health.


It was led by the excellent Professor Riccardo Polosa – who spoke recently to the UK Parliament – and ran from the University of Catania Italy.

Using vapers who had NEVER smoked and over 3.5 year period they found:

…this study did not demonstrate any health concerns associated with long-term use of EC in relatively young users who did not also smoke tobacco.

And do remember PG – one of the main ingredients of e-liquid is also used in asthma inhalers.

So one more time – no vaping will not give you pneumonia – in fact it might help prevent it in the first place.

I have simpler vape tastes these days - I never leave home without a Caliburn G, a Vaporesso Luxe 40 or Innokin EQ FLTR and a CBD vape pen or bottle of CBD drops in my rucksack...or indeed an Aspire Nautilus Prime X in my pocket... At home I'll be using various mods topped with the GeekVape Zeus X RTA or the Signature Mods Mono SQ topped with the Augvape BTFC RDA... I'm a former journalist and now a writer and sometimes author... I'm ex Army - adore dogs and never happier than hiking over the hills or with a good book on a beach.


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