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Dr. Farsalinos Disputes Wet Lung Linked to Vapor

Dr. Farsalinos Disputes Wet Lung Linked to Vapor

Scientific reports and case studies can be tricky to navigate when it comes to vapor. Findings from two studies on the same topic can offer contradicting health advice, and sometimes even the data within a single paper can sometimes seem at odds with itself.

Still, the news media seems particularly keen on vapor coverage lately, and the standard practice for reporting seems to be taking anything said by someone in a lab coat at face value without questioning or even examining study methodology.

That leaves it up to pro-vapor advocates to set the record straight when it comes to bad science. Often, the expert in vapers' corner has been Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a longtime champion of vaping as a means of harm reduction. He has consistently fought to dispel myths about vapor, has argued for it benefits as a cessation method, and maintains a popular blog about e-cigarettes. He has been known to throw his voice into discussions to counter myths that surface in media reporting, including a recent sensationalized report that vapor caused one woman’s “wet lung.”

Case Study and Media

For the last month, media outlets have been running a story involving an 18-year-old Pennsylvania woman that was admitted to the hospital with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, otherwise known as “wet lung.” Using this one case, the lead author of a case study, Dr. Casey Sommerfeld, made a far-from-conclusive statement that's since been used as the basis for headlines connecting ‘wet lung’ to vapor.

“It is difficult to speculate on how frequently this could happen; however, there are a few case reports involving adults that developed respiratory distress following electronic cigarette use. As electronic cigarette use increases, we will be seeing more case reports and side effects.”

This led to numerous news stories linking this restaurant hostesses' three weeks of vaping as she struggled to quit combustible cigarettes to her hospitalization due to ‘wet lung’. These reports glossed over any variables in her health or life situation and merely made the case that one directly caused the other.

“The hostess had been vaping for only about three weeks last year when she developed symptoms bad enough to send her to the emergency room of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center,” reads a typical report, this one sourced from CNN.


The findings of Dr. Sommerfield were dismissed by Dr. Farsalinos, who likened the reports as an attempt at sensationalism. Farsalinos countered by offering a much simpler explanation: the case study in the report could have been about an allergic reaction and not about vapor at all.

“There is no such thing as a 'wet lung.' This is neither a scientific term nor a medical condition. The case report that was accompanied by a press statement refers to hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This is a condition caused by a form of an allergic reaction that results in an inflammatory response. Any inflammation (including infections such as pneumonia) can result in pleural effusions (accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity). This is what created the headline 'wet lung,' which of course is irrelevant to the funny stories circulating for years that inhalation of e-cigarette vapor can result in accumulation of fluid in the lungs,” Dr. Farsalinos said in an email to Breazy.

“The case report assumed that the case of hypersensitivity pneumonitis was caused by the e-cigarette use," Farsalinos continued. "Despite not providing any proof about this, it is possible that the patient had a hypersensitivity reaction to an e-cigarette ingredient. This is one case among millions consumers who had not developed this or any other condition. The use of the term 'wet lung' was inappropriate and will very likely result in further spreading and sustaining the misconception that e-cigarette vapor is condensed when inhaled and accumulates in liquid form in the lungs.”

As with other studies and myths that have been questioned by Dr. Farsalinos, scientific objectivity has once again proven useful in combating an anti-vaping argument based on paper-thin evidence. While these statements try to piece together an argument against vaping, the arguments often break down with a little bit of critical analysis.