On June 27, a Jacksonville woman took to Facebook to vent her concerns about electronic cigarettes after vaping supposedly killed her 67-year-old neighbor. She wrote that she had just returned from the memorial service and her neighbor died unnecessarily because of “vapor ciggaretts” (sic) that had “coated the folliculs” (sic) of her lungs with oil. The post soon went viral with more than 70,000 shares, but it’s creating a lot of panic for no reason.
This week, Snopes featured the Facebook post in their “Rumor Has It” section and they believe the post is not true. At best, the woman is misinformed of the facts and at worst, she is purposefully spreading bad information.
The hint of death related to oil in the lungs likely hints at a condition caused lipoid pneumonia. While serious, this disease is not commonly associated with electronic cigarettes. Instead, it is usually found among elderly people, illicit drug users, or individuals with pre-existing medical problems. Lipoid pneumonia has also been linked to chemicals used in fumigations.
We have seen only a handful of lipoid pneumonia cases in vapers. The first reported death was eventually ruled to have resulted from other primary causes apart from ecigarettes. In 2011, a woman claimed her husband died from the condition after vaping “oil” in an ecig. However, common sense would lead people to avoid this practice. Inhaling lipids or oils in any form is a bad idea.
Critics say that ecigs could be dangerous to the lungs because they contain glycerin in the carrier liquids, however scientists say these substances are not harmful. “Glycerin is actually an alcohol (polyol) and thus it is impossible to cause lipoid pneumonia. Only oil-based liquids could be the cause for this condition; such liquids should not be used with (ecigs).” If you still have doubts, consider that asthma inhalers often contain propylene glycol, the same substance used as a carrier liquid in many ecigs.
While the Facebook post was certainly upsetting, there is a serious lack of details. There was no information provided about how long the neighbor used electronic cigarettes, what kind she used, and whether she also used tobacco products or illicit drugs. There are a host of health problems that could have contributed or it could be something as simple as inhaled fumes from a home fumigation. Without those details, this story has no validity.
The poster mentioned that doctors at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville treated the neighbor, but when Snopes contacted the hospital, there was no information to back the woman’s allegations. There have been no news stories about he woman’s death either and with so many critics eager to demonize electronic cigarettes, this would undoubtedly have made headlines if there were any merit to the claims.
Ultimately, it seems that this Facebook user probably got her story mixed up. Maybe she assumed ecigs were at fault for her neighbor’s death. Maybe she misunderstood something she heard at the funeral. Either way, this is a timely reminder that you can’t believe everything that is shared on social media.