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2020 in Review Part 1: Coronavirus Rumblings

By Gordon Stribling 4th December 2020 4 Mins


The year 2020 may have given a sense of perspective to some of vaping’s detractors as a genuine epidemiological threat swept the world.

As the coronavirus took hold, the localised spate of THC-linked lung injuries and the disputed ‘youth vaping epidemic’ no longer seemed to be the threat to global health that they were just months before.

Of course, vaping still found its way into the headlines.

Here’s how the first four months of the most challenging year in the industry’s history unfolded.


Coronavirus Rumblings

Coronavirus skeleton graphic (blue and green)
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The first reports of a ‘mystery respiratory illness’ discovered in Wuhan, China, begin to circulate in the British press.

Vape industry hub Shenzhen would later go under lockdown, a sign of things to come for the global vape market.

FDA Finalises Flavoured Pod Ban

The FDA formally bans the sale of flavoured pods implicated in the ‘youth vaping epidemic’. Only tobacco and menthol flavours remain on the shelves, hitting the pockets of JUUL and its competitors hard.

WHO Vaping Advice Condemned by Experts

Experts from the UK’s public health community roundly condemn advice given by the World Health Organization (WHO) Q&A.

In claiming that e-cigarettes cause lung damage, the WHOs cites 2019s EVALI outbreak. However, the CDC is no longer linking the disease to nicotine vape products.


ITV Screens ‘How Safe is Your Vape’ Documentary

ITV building

Vapers are outraged after ITV documentary ‘How Safe is Your Vape?‘ cites discredited studies and US statistics to paint vaping in a negative light. Vapouround MD, Paul Caplin, says:

“It’s embarrassing and frankly outrageous that ITV would go after vaping, given the devastating toll tobacco continues to play on our society”

American Heart Association Retracts Heart Attack Paper

The American Heart Association retracts a study that purported to show that e-cigarettes cause heart attacks – even before people use them.

After analysing data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH), the authors of the study concluded that ‘e-cigarette use is an independent risk factor for having had a myocardial infarction.’

However, analysis included former smokers who had had heart attacks before they started vaping.

The study was co-authored by long time vaping adversary Stanton Glantz who would retire later in the year.


Smokers Afraid of Switching, PHE Report Finds

Over half of UK smokers believe that vaping is as harmful or more harmful than smoking, according to a Public Health England’s (PHE) report.

The mistaken belief that e-cigarettes were more harmful increased during the US lung injury outbreak in Autumn 2019.

PHE calls for continued monitoring of public perceptions, fearing that misplaced fears about safety will cost lives.

Vape Shops Close in UK Lockdown

Scrabble pieces reading 'Stay Home'

The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) writes to the English, Scottish and Welsh governments to ask them to keep vape shops open during the coronavirus pandemic and isolation periods. 

It follows similar successful lobbying by Dr Riccardo Polosa in Italy

The campaign is ultimately unsuccessful.

Netflix Releases ‘Broken: Big Vape’ Documentary

The second vape documentary of 2020 proves to be a lot more balanced than the first. Vapouround’s Benedict Jones writes:

“‘Broken: Big Vape’ is about as balanced a documentary as we can feasibly expect from a mainstream platform like Netflix and it does a good job of highlighting the amazing potential of open vapour products, while covering concerns about youth use and corporate co-opting of an independent driven industry.”


Court Pushes Back PMTA Deadline

Vape companies are granted an additional four months to submit their products for review.

A federal court accepted the request to push back the deadline, originally marked as May 12, to September 9, following delays caused by the coronavirus.

But that was the beginning! Keep an eye out for Part 2, when controversial theories about the potential benefits of nicotine as a cornavirus preventative sweep the public health community.

Header Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay



About this author

Gordon Stribling