It was to be expected: since e-cigarettes are already subject to the regulations of the Tobacco Directive, even though they contain no tobacco and not even nicotine, passive vaping is sometimes equated with passive smoking by various media. If you vape, you would harm the environment. The vapor from e-cigarettes is harmful, it is said in many places. Most recently, the IRK (Commission for Indoor Air Hygiene) called for the non-smoker protection law to be extended to include e-cigarettes, i.e. to ban vaping in closed rooms as a matter of principle. With everything that goes with it. Other voices claim that e-cigarette vapor is no more harmful than pure air. Our short CAK fact check reveals why, how and who is right.
IRK about the passive vapor of the e-cigarette
“Release processes such as those in smoldering tobacco cigarettes via sidestream smoke are negligible in electronic cigarettes. The aerosol is only formed when the consumer activates the e-cigarette by sucking or pressing a button. The substances from the liquid therefore only get into the room air via the exhalate (the exhaled air) of the consumer.” – IRC
And that’s not all. Because in addition to the fact that e-cigarette liquids do not even have to contain nicotine, the Irish “Health Information and Quality Authority” (Hiqa), which reports to the Irish Minister of Health and the Ministry of Family Affairs, found that the nicotine content in the exhalate of the e- Cigarette vapor is around eight times less than tobacco smoke. The comprehensive investigation of the Higa can be found online. An article in Deutsches Ärzteblatt, written by Dr. Ute Mons, Head of the Cancer Prevention Unit at the German Cancer Research Center.
“Fine and ultra-fine liquid particles (aerosols) are formed from the propylene glycol that is supersaturated in the breathing air, the size distribution and number concentrations of which are similar to those of tobacco smoke. According to current research results from the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety, the concentration of fine (PM2.5) and ultrafine particles (UFP) in the air in the room increases when e-cigarettes are used. The ultrafine particles penetrate into the alveoli of the lungs.” – IRC
No, says Professor Dr. Mayer in his report and in this interview with Liquid News. Actually, from a scientific point of view, the vapor from an electronic cigarette is a mist. The fine and ultrafine liquid particles described by the IRK, in contrast to the solid particles in tobacco smoke, dissolve quickly on contact with human trade.
Does the e-cigarette affect the quality of the indoor air?
“Furthermore, after two hours of e-cigarette use, propylene glycol was present in the room air at a concentration that exceeded the provisional guideline value I (RW I) of 0.07 mg/m3 by about three times. For reasons of precaution, this should be avoided. In a room with heavy e-cigarette use, indoor air pollution with PM2.5 can increase to levels measured in restaurants with legal cigarette consumption.” – IRC
Numbers and technical terms are thrown around here, but ultimately they only say one thing: the pollution of the room air from e-cigarettes is well below the critical limit values according to the Federal Environment Agency. Intervention is recommended from a reference value of 0.7 mg/m3. However, the exposure values of 0.07 mg/m3 quoted by the IRK itself are well below this value. Do you have one here? just missed a zero? For the preparation of the study, around 59 to 86 people vaped unrestrainedly in a small, closed room – a typical “vaping event” and a special case, which events always are. In addition, such events are rarely attended by non-vapers who would inhale the air, which is not harmful anyway.
The reference value, which, according to the Federal Environment Agency, requires intervention, is a room air pollution of 0.7 mg/m3. However, the pollution of the air in the room is well below this value in the study cited by the IRK. Accordingly, 59 to 86 people steamed extensively in a small closed room – a typical “steamer event” and a special case. However, only e-vapers take part in such closed events – i.e. non-users who could be charged are usually not present in such rooms.
The e-cigarette in public
“But so far there have been no clear regulations on the use of e-cigarettes in publicly accessible indoor areas.” – IRC
In fact, the laws governing e-cigarettes in public are not uniform. But that’s not too bad, because where the legislature does not take action, the private individual can use the domiciliary rights. So far, the domiciliary rights have clearly decided on the use of e-cigarettes, i.e. whoever owns the “publicly accessible interior”, for example with regard to liquids and e-cigarettes on airplanes. And in our opinion, that’s perfectly fine for responsible citizens, even if it’s a little complicated. Furthermore, this statement in no way proves any harmfulness of the e-cigarette mist.
Health effects of vaping
“Although the nature of the particles in the e-cigarette aerosol differs from those in the environment and also from tobacco smoke, it can be assumed that they can have adverse health effects due to their chemical composition and morphology.” – IRC
“Aerosolized propylene glycol causes eye and respiratory irritation even after short-term exposure.” – IRK
Here we are basically being told that while the vapor from an electronic cigarette is very different from tobacco smoke, it is just as dangerous to your health. Of course no reasons are given for this. The statement itself is accompanied by a quote from Dr. Pötschke-Langer, the former head of cancer prevention at the DKFZ. This also provided no evidence that would support their critical statement. But before she left office, she was heavily criticized in the Suddeutsche Zeitung for apparently being particularly close to those pharmaceutical companies that manufactured nicotine replacement products. Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that the e-cigarette should simply be slowed down here. The IRK demonstrates passive pollution from the fluid particles of the vapor based on work on non-fluid particles, fine dust and tobacco smoke. Animal experiments and studies on smoke machines, some of which are operated with industrial propylene glycol, are used as further evidence. These show a short-term irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract. For the according to Wieslander et al. (2001) quoted slight irritations from propylene glycol in the room air, the corresponding concentration is 1,545 times higher than the value that, for example, according to O’Connell et al. (2015) when several people use e-cigarettes in a closed room with only 12.8 m2.
What do a smoke machine and an e-cigarette have in common?
“However, employees in the entertainment industry who are regularly exposed to aerosols containing propylene glycol, such as theater fog, suffer more frequently from respiratory irritation and impairment of lung function than non-exposed persons.” – IRC
It is true that e-cigarettes use an ingredient similar to smoke machines. However, smoke machines – if they are fluid propylene glycol and not oil mist – are operated with a much lower quality variant of the substance. But even this inferior variant was only recently classified as harmless by the EU. Nevertheless, we would like to make it clear here that pharmaceutical propylene glycol is used for e-cigarette liquids, which basically has nothing to do with the substance used for smoke machines. In fact, pharmaceutical grade propylene glycol is used in inhaled asthma sprays and smoking cessation medications such as Johnson & Johnson’s Nicorette Spray, or in sore throat sprays such as Neo-Angin.
The e-cigarette and the protection of minors
“However, many previous non-smokers among adolescents and young adults also try the e-cigarette.” – IRC
This is incorrect! This was the result of a study by the Center for Interdisciplinary Addiction Research at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, supported by the Federal Ministry of Health. We also evaluated the results of the study in our report on the alleged Gateway effect on e-cigarettes. It showed that only around 1.2% of the participants (a total of 3,300 participants / 1.2% corresponds to around 40 people) were non-smokers before they tested the e-cigarette. The rest, i.e. 3,260 people or 98.8%, were smokers. For them, the e-cigarette was more of a help to quit smoking than a kind of “gateway drug”. This alleged gateway effect has already been scientifically refuted several times. Recently, the Munich Institute for Therapy Research (IFT) determined that the average age for the first use of e-cigarettes is over 30 years.
The feel of the e-cigarette is similar to that of a tobacco cigarette
“The e-cigarette imitates the tobacco cigarette in its handling and mostly also in its appearance.” – IRC
Anyone who has ever really dealt with the function and components of an e-cigarette knows that this statement, if at all, applies to some disposable e-cigarettes that are deliberately modeled on tobacco cigarettes – and are rarely found on the market today . However, the majority of electronic cigarettes do not remotely resemble a cigarette. Neither optically nor in handling.