Roll your own cigarettes healthier

E-cigarettes: the lesser evil?

It is best not to vape or smoke. At least that is what most agree on. However, reports about the lack of long-term studies and possible health risks in the social networks often lead to very lively discussions. Electric smoke supporters point to advantages over tobacco consumption.

Do the media - we at DW Wissenschaft too - portray e-cigarettes and vaporizers too negatively? What are the advantages of the electric smoke alternatives in direct comparison with conventional tobacco cigarettes?

1. E-cigarettes can help you quit smoking

While the World Health Organization continues to express itself critical to negative about e-cigarettes, the switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes is actively promoted by the British government as a means of smoking cessation (harm reduction).

In 2016, British doctors from the Royal College of Physician and Public Health England pointed out positive effects on tobacco consumption in the article "Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction". This British assessment was initially viewed critically in many EU countries because there was a lack of valid data from long-term studies.

The Association of the E-Cigarette Trade in Germany, i.e. the lobbyists of the e-cigarette, presents more unambiguous figures: "91 percent of all e-cigarette users are former tobacco smokers. Eight percent use both the e-cigarette and the tobacco cigarette and thus fall into the` category Dual users'. Only one percent of those surveyed are newcomers who have not smoked before. "

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Health has also reported that for dependent and / or heavy smokers, "switching to e-cigarettes could represent a healthier alternative from a harm reduction perspective, especially if smokers do not want to abstain from nicotine and are looking for an alternative to tobacco consumption".

2. E-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, but ...

Thousands of substances are produced during the combustion process of tobacco cigarettes, several hundred of which are classified as toxic or even carcinogenic. Since the e-cigarette does not require burning tobacco, "characteristic carcinogenic combustion products" are not required for e-cigarettes, writes the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

E-cigarette smokers no longer breathe tar, often have less sore throat or throat infections than tobacco smokers, they cough less, often feel fitter again and their sense of taste improves again. If the smoker refrains from nicotine, the craving for addiction is suddenly reduced.

Less harmful, but not healthy. In particular, the long-term consequences are unknown.

However, the finest particles get deep into the lungs with the steam and are deposited there. The consequences can be cough, inflammation and decreased lung function. Some flavors can cause allergies or severe respiratory problems.

The liguids - i.e. the vaporizing liquids - contain pollutants that are held responsible for numerous (secondary) diseases. They mainly consist of propylene glycol. You know it from the theater fog. It can cause eye and respiratory irritation. When the liquids are heated, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde are produced, which also damage the respiratory tract, irritate the skin and mucous membranes and are considered carcinogenic.

For example, if three milliliters of liquid are heated, around 14 milligrams of formaldehyde are produced. This is about 5 to 15 times what you would inhale if you smoked 20 tobacco cigarettes. And the hotter the e-cigarette, the higher the dose of harmful substances.

3. E-cigarette smokers have more choices

Although the classic tobacco product range also includes numerous flavors and varieties, the range of regulated and unregulated e-cigarettes, depot and tank systems as well as disposable and reusable products as well as countless liquids and flavors with which the E -Cigarette is filled according to taste.

E-cigarettes should be marketed as a harmless lifestyle product in order to make smoking socially acceptable again.

However, the huge selection is also a big problem, because often little is known about the ingredients and their effects in the long term. The devastating health damage caused by tobacco consumption only became apparent over time.

4. E-cigarette consumption is less of a disturbance to the environment

For non-smokers, the flavored vapors from e-cigarettes or vaporizers are still an impertinence. For example, when you sit in a cafe and are enveloped in a sticky, sweet strawberry cloud from the table further away. Disgusting!

At least passive smoking is no longer as harmful to health as when one is exposed to tobacco smoke.


According to the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), passive smoking causes breast cancer, respiratory diseases and asthma attacks in young women. Children of parents who smoke are more likely to suffer from acute and chronic respiratory diseases and to have otitis media more often than children of parents who do not smoke.

Of course, it's best for your health not to vape or smoke.

Every year in Germany around 2,150 people die of coronary artery disease caused by passive smoking and over 770 non-smokers die of a stroke caused by passive smoking, according to the DKFZ.

There is no such thing as passive smoking with e-cigarettes. E-smokers no longer have the typical bad breath, their teeth, fingers or beards are no longer yellow, and their clothes no longer smell of tobacco smoke but smell of strawberries, for example.

5. E-cigarettes produce less waste

When we think of ocean pollution, we think of plastic waste first, but numerically, cigarette butts are the biggest problem. According to a study by the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, 4.5 trillion of the 5.6 trillion cigarettes smoked annually are improperly disposed of.

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable because they contain toxins and heavy metals

These cigarette butts are not only ugly, they are also harmful to the environment because they contain toxins and heavy metals. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and the decomposition process can take centuries, especially in salt water.

E-cigarettes do not leave stubs behind, but e-cigarettes cannot simply be thrown into the household waste either. They are electronic scrap - especially your rechargeable battery - that must be properly disposed of. The devices also contain valuable raw materials that can be recycled.

6. The quick e-cigarette for in between

"On a cigarette" - that is the worldwide term for a short period of time in which the exact number of minutes does not really play a role. In any case, there is enough time to discuss important things, to switch off for a moment or to forget nothing. For years, for example, ZEIT editor-in-chief Giovanni di Lorenzo had a cigarette with former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to discuss world affairs.

When it comes to tobacco cigarettes, the first puff is the decisive factor. The "nicotine flash" pops in the lungs, the slight scratchy sensation in the throat - the so-called "throat hit" - grabs you, at the same time a certain relaxation sets in. All of this makes up the real pleasure for tobacco smokers. But the decisive factor is the first move; after a few more puffs, it's more about smoking the dump.

These bang moments are often missing with e-cigarettes, but the electric smoker can smoke one for a moment, for example in the car or in places that a tobacco cigarette would contaminate for hours.

7. Fewer fires from e-cigarettes

In 2011, the European Commission announced that unattended cigarettes were one of the leading causes of fatal fires in Europe. According to this, over 30,000 cigarette fires occur annually in the EU; more than 1,000 people died and more than 4,000 were injured.

A discarded cigarette is enough to trigger an inferno

Not only houses or apartments went up in flames, entire forests and towns burned down because cigarette butts were carelessly thrown away from moving cars, trains or otherwise.

In order to reduce these volumes, the European Commission introduced the so-called RIP (Reduced Ignition Propensity) process. In the cigarette paper there are now two thicker paper rings. If you do not pull on the cigarette, it will go out the rings due to insufficient oxygen supply.This procedure was already in use in the USA, Canada and Australia at that time.

8. E-cigar smoking is cheaper

The respective usage behavior is of course decisive for the calculation. A heavy tobacco smoker smokes around one box a day, which costs between five and seven euros, which means that he spends between 150 and 220 euros per month on smoking.

Even a passionate long-term steamer who every now and then buys other liquids, a new atomizer head or a new device does not spend that much over the year. The purchase price for the e-cigarette is around 50 euros on average. A liquid bottle with 10 milliliters content costs only a few euros, depending on the brand. The electricity for the batteries can be neglected. It is true that smoking e-cigarettes can earn a considerable sum of money, but tobacco smoking is clearly more expensive.

More on this: No Europe-wide tax on e-cigarettes

9. E-cigarettes are not a gateway drug into tobacco consumption

According to the "Gateway Hypothesis", the consumption of e-cigarettes seduces young people into smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes are therefore a kind of gateway drug.

The tobacco industry is trying to market the e-cigarette as a lifestyle product with supposedly harmless flavors and to make smoking socially acceptable again through alternatives to conventional cigarettes. Accordingly, they should be banned or strictly regulated, says Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, chairwoman of the secretariat of the World Health Organization's anti-tobacco convention.

The Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) also takes the view that "the consumption of e-cigarettes can encourage young people to experiment with tobacco cigarettes".

The Federal Ministry of Health, however, comes to a different conclusion: "The fear that adolescents will be tempted to smoke tobacco products by trying nicotine-containing e-cigarettes cannot be confirmed by these survey data."

There is also no increasing acceptance of smoking to be observed: "For Germany, the proportion of young smokers has continuously fallen in recent years, regardless of an increase in the consumption of e-cigarettes."

In any case, the e-cigarette industry continues to expect strong growth figures: The prognosis of the industry association "Alliance for Tobacco Free Enjoyment" (BfTG) sees growth of at least 25 percent to around 500 million euros for 2019.

However, the industry fears "a possible taxation and a politically discussed advertising ban - analogous to the tobacco cigarette. In this way, the e-cigarette is politically slowed down instead of actively promoted - as is the case in Great Britain, for example."

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Fate in hand

    A cancer diagnosis always hits hard and unexpected. Almost half of all cancer cases could be avoided. Smoking is to blame for around one in five tumors alone. The toxic tobacco smoke not only causes lung cancer, but also many other types of tumors. Smoking is the most common self-inflicted cause of cancer - but not the only one.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Being fat can be fatal

    In second place of the cancer triggers: obesity. Increased insulin levels are to blame. They increase the risk of almost all cancers, especially kidney, gallbladder and esophageal cancers. Overweight women also produce more female sex hormones in adipose tissue, making it easier for them to develop uterine and breast cancer.

  • Avoid cancer instead of cure

    Get off the sofa!

    Cancer is particularly common in people who barely move. Long-term studies show: Sport prevents tumors. Because physical activity lowers the insulin level and also prevents fatness. And it doesn't have to be high-performance sport: just walking or cycling makes a big difference.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Cancer for the good!

    Alcohol is carcinogenic. It mainly promotes tumors of the oral cavity, the pharynx and the esophagus. The combination of smoking and alcohol is particularly dangerous: it increases your risk of cancer a hundredfold. However, a glass of wine a day is healthy because it supports the cardiovascular system. Anything beyond that should be avoided.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Unhealthy from the animal

    Red meat can cause colon cancer. The exact reason has not yet been clarified, but long-term studies show a clear connection. Beef is particularly dangerous, and to a lesser extent pork. Consumption increases the risk of cancer by about one and a half times. Fish, on the other hand, prevents cancer.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Danger from the charcoal grill?

    When grilling meat, carcinogenic substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are produced. In animal experiments, these chemical compounds trigger tumors. This has not yet been clearly proven in long-term studies on humans. Perhaps it is simply the consumption of meat itself that is the evil, not the way it is cooked.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Avoid fast food

    A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber prevents cancer. In long-term studies, however, researchers have seen that a healthy diet has less influence on the risk of cancer than originally assumed: It only lowers the risk slightly, by a maximum of ten percent.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    A lot of sun does a lot of harm

    UV radiation in sunlight penetrates the genome and changes it. The result: black or white skin cancer. Sunscreen may protect against sunburn - but as soon as the skin tans, it has already received too much radiation.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Cancer from modern medicine

    X-rays damage the genetic make-up. With a normal x-ray, however, the exposure is low. Completely different with a computed tomography: You should only undergo it if there are good reasons. Magnetic resonance imaging, on the other hand, is harmless. By the way: You are also exposed to cancer-causing radiation when you travel by plane.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Cancer caused by infections

    Human papillomaviruses can cause cervical cancer. Hepatitis B and C viruses can cause liver cells to degenerate. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori (photo) lodges in the stomach and can be the cause of stomach cancer. You can get vaccinated against many of the pathogens; antibiotics help against Helicobacter pylori.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    Better than their reputation

    The contraceptive pill slightly increases the risk of developing breast cancer, but it also greatly reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. Overall, the pill protects more than it harms - at least when it comes to cancer.

  • Avoiding cancer instead of curing it

    A real stroke of fate

    But even if you do everything right - you are never completely immune to cancer. Half of all cancer cases are caused by the wrong genes - or simply age. Brain tumors in particular often develop without external assistance.

    Author: Brigitte Osterath