Today the BBCs news magazine programme 'Inside Out' will broadcast the results of its investigations into the safety of e-cigarettes in the North East.
News items on the BBC News Channel and articles published on the BBC website in the lead up to broadcast indicate the BBC tested four samples of e-liquids purchased from retailers in Tyne and Wear, one of which was found to contain diacetyl in quantities the BBC has yet to reveal.
Diacetyl is an ingredient used in food flavourings which gives a buttery taste. The inhalation of diacetyl was deemed to be unsafe after numerous workers in popcorn factories in the US were diagnosed with the irreversible condition bronchiolitis obliterans, now sometimes commonly called 'popcorn lung'. The BBC tests found the chemical in the liquid and it is not known how much would need to be absorbed and over what period of time to constitute a risk to health.
Although diacetyl is found in cigarettes, in quantities many times higher than has ever been found in e-liquids, the e-cigarette industry has known for some time that it is unsafe for inhalation and reputable manufacturers and suppliers actively check their own supply chain and test their products to ensure that it is not present. It seems that in this case the supplier involved did undertake tests and identified the presence of diacetyl, but failed to take adequate steps to ensure that the affected products were removed from sale.
NNA supports the proportionate regulation of e-liquids, both in terms of quality and safety of the ingredients used. To date however the regulatory authorities have sought to focus on other issues, such as tank sizes and consistent dosage, rather than product safety. We are hopeful that the British Standards Institute, with input from NNA, ECCA (the e-cigarette consumer association), ECITA (the e-cigarette industry trade association) and other interested parties, will very soon produce a robust set of enforceable standards upon which consumers can confidently rely.