Electric cigarette: only hot air?

Can e-cigarettes be an alternative to traditional cigarettes? The electric cigarettes are advertised as healthier, as a means of smoking cessation or even as a non-smoking cigarette. But is it really about "healthy smoking"? What are the benefits of "steaming" and where are the risks of the e-cigarette? Find out more here!

Where does the e-cigarette come from?

That smoking is unhealthy, has now penetrated into global awareness: on lawsuits in the US, in which smokers sued the cigarette manufacturers for damages in the millions, followed in Europe, laws on non-smoker protection.

In 2004, Chinese companies rediscovered an idea that had already failed at the end of the eighties: Tobacco company RJ Reynolds launched a "smoke-free" cigarette in 1989, which in reality only produced less smoke than a conventional cigarette. The idea flopped down the line.

Significantly more successful is the distribution of electronic cigarette, also known as e-cigarette for several years.

What are e-cigarettes?

The manufacturers of the electric cigarette propagate the breakthrough in smoking cessation. The difference between regular and electronic cigarettes is simple: Instead of burning tobacco and its contained carcinogenic or harmful ingredients, nicotine is vaporized. Thus, no tobacco smoke, but inhales an e-cigarette smoker a liquid (Liquid), which contains nicotine and water, glycerol and propylene glycol and artificial flavors and also often preservatives.

The liquid of the electric cigarette is in a replaceable capsule and is distributed through a nebulizer in the mouthpiece. Each turn on the electronic cigarette activates a heating element that vaporizes the nicotine fluid. In order to make the electric cigarette look as real as possible, in addition to the right glow stick, some e-cigarettes light up a small LED light that emulates the cigarette glow. This smokeless cigarette is charged with a battery.

Electronic cigarette for smoking cessation?

Allegedly, the electric cigarette is the panacea for anyone who wants to quit smoking. The manufacturers have announced that the nicotine dose can be reduced further and further, so that sometimes even the talk of the "non-smoking cigarette" is. Some sales companies even claim that the electric cigarette is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a means of smoking cessation. The WHO, however, not only denied this statement, it also clarified its position that far from sufficient studies are available on the electric cigarette.

Experts even warn that the electronic cigarette is more likely to smoke than to get rid of nicotine addiction. Especially children and adolescents, but also non-smokers or occasional smokers would be lured with flavors such as apple and chocolate - in truth, this would only facilitate the entry into proper cigarettes. In addition, the nicotine reaches the brain via the electric cigarette almost as fast as in the conventional one. Thus, the electronic cigarette has a high addictive potential.

A large-scale comparison of more than 800 studies by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found clear evidence that e-cigarettes can tempt teenagers and young adults to smoke, and that they are more likely to use traditional cigarettes.

Smoke-free smoking = healthy smoking?

In Germany, the electric cigarette is usually available through online stores. Suppliers often explain that the electronic cigarette contains nicotine and only a few harmless flavors.

That's not the case, chemists from the US Food and Drug Administration found out. Among the non-specified pollutants in one case, the chemical also used as antifreeze diethylene glycol, which was contained in the gas of a cartridge. In addition, in half of the products tested, the scientists detected carcinogenic nitrosamines and, in a large proportion of cases, other potentially harmful substances.

Although experts suspect that the electric cigarette is indeed less harmful than the normal one, there are not many comprehensive studies yet. A British study concludes that long-term consumption of e-cigarettes is significantly less harmful to health than long-term consumption of traditional cigarettes. This is also confirmed by a study by Public Health England that classifies e-cigarettes as 95 percent less harmful.

Legal exceptions for electric cigarettes?

For nicotine-containing e-cigarettes since May 20, 2016 in Germany, the provisions of the Tobacco Products Act apply. However, they are not subject to the federal Federal Non-Smoking Protection Act. The design of the non-smoker protection law is a matter for the Länder. Therefore, in some federal states the same prohibitions apply to e-cigarettes as for normal cigarettes, whereas in other federal states there are fewer restrictions.

Basically, liquids have a maximum dose of 20 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid. A liquid may only contain a maximum of 10 milliliters. Refill containers may also hold a maximum of 10 milliliters. Additives such as caffeine or vitamins that suggest a health benefit are not allowed.

Since the tobacco is not burned, but evaporated, there is no tobacco tax (which in fact makes the electric cigarette cheaper).

According to the Youth Protection Act, however, the distribution of e-cigarettes to young people under the age of 18 is prohibited.

In reality, the ghosts are different: While some airlines offer their own electric cigarette on their flights, "smoke-free smoking" is strictly prohibited by other airlines. Similarly unanswered is the question of whether the electric cigarette is a drug for smoking cessation.

Electric Cigarette: Side Effects

In addition to the not clearly known substances that get into the body through the electric cigarette and may be released by the latter, e-steamer occasionally complain of headaches or dizziness. Especially the new entry is not easy for many smokers in terms of dosage. Although some Chinese manufacturers are gradually seeking clinical trials on the e-cigarette; but especially with regard to the long-term effect, no statements can yet be made.

In Germany, the electric cigarette is still deliberately not advertised as a means of smoking cessation. Although ownership and use are largely permitted in Europe, countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Finland or Turkey have banned trade and brokering, or have only allowed pharmacies under drug prescriptions. Whether the federal government will refer to a clear position on the electric cigarette remains to be seen.

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