Dusseldorf So-called disposable vapes, electronic cigarettes in mini format, are particularly popular among young people. But the devices are considered to be harmful to the environment and health. Experts warn against it.
They taste like cherries, liquorice or mentol, look like colored pencils and are particularly popular among young adults: disposable electronic cigarettes, also known as “vapes”, are in vogue. We answer the most important questions about vaporizers.
What is a vape? The term vape derives from the English word “vaping”, which means something like vaporizing. Behind it is an electronic cigarette that requires e-liquid. The number of consumers has been increasing for years, as e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to traditional smoking. On the other hand, disposable vapes, fairly new to the market, cannot be refilled. After up to 600 moves they become trash.
Where is the trend coming from? Demand for vapes that don’t come with shocking images and warnings grew, especially last summer. The devices are advertised on social media, and many an influencer is promoting them. What’s more, marketing and sales are easy for manufacturers because you don’t have to explain how the devices work. And because the product doesn’t require any accessories, it’s also attractive to retailers.
What does one cost disposable vape and where can you buy them? The disposable vapes can be bought in vape shops, but also in most kiosks, gas stations and supermarkets. There are also a large number of Internet providers. They cost between seven and ten euros and can be used immediately after purchase. The cigarettes are available in umpteen flavors: strawberry, peppermint, lemon cake, watermelon or liquorice.
How harmful are vapes? The health risks have not yet been definitively researched. “According to the current state of knowledge, the most important risk factor is the inhalation of nicotine. Nicotine is a neurotoxin and an addictive substance that is produced when consumed E cigarette can produce strong physical and psychological dependence,” said the NRW Ministry of Health on request. In addition, there are other ingredients in the liquids whose long-term effects are not foreseeable. Researchers believe that propylene glycol and glycerin interact with the fluid layer in the lungs. This could disrupt gas exchange in the organ. “Consequently, the consumption of e-cigarettes also poses health risks,” says the ministry.
What is the risk for young people? Disposable vapes are particularly popular among young adults. So it’s hardly surprising that you can find many empty devices in schoolyards, in parks or on public transport. However, the professional association of paediatricians points out the dangers. Accordingly, the nicotine in e-cigarettes harms the still immature brain of adolescents. In particular, it changes the natural structure of synapses. This in turn can damage the brain areas responsible for attention control and learning.
Are young people allowed to do this at all? vapes consume? no According to the Youth Protection Act, a minimum age of 18 years also applies to e-cigarettes. This means that the sale to minors is prohibited – regardless of whether online or in specialist shops. But it’s not that easy. “Not every little booth controls the age, because the owners want and have to make sales. Added to this is the passing on of adults to minors. Anyone who wants to get disposable vapes will find a way,” says Michael Klein, addiction and prevention researcher at the Catholic University of Cologne.
How polluting are the devices? It’s a problem that many vapes are carelessly thrown into the environment or discarded in the trash. The reason: the devices contain reusable lithium-ion batteries. The batteries of six disposable vapes have about the same amount of storage as one iPhone. According to a study from the UK, 50 percent of single-use vapes end up in the regular trash. Instead, they would have to be disposed of in collection containers, such as those found in electronics stores, supermarkets or at recycling centers. “If it were disposed of with the residual waste, the raw materials contained in the electronic devices would not be put to high-quality recycling. If the disposable vapes contain pollutants, they would unnecessarily pollute the combustion residues of the waste incineration plants,” according to the NRW Ministry of the Environment.
How is the city of Düsseldorf dealing with the problem? A city spokesman points out that the devices have to be disposed of at recycling centers or at mobile pollutant collection sites. “As far as used e-vapes are collected, for example, with the contents of street wastepaper baskets or via street sweepers in street cleaning, they are necessarily disposed of in the waste incineration plant,” says the city. However, this would not yet lead to a noticeably increased workload. However, the Office for Environmental and Consumer Protection explains that the production of such single-use small electrical devices ensures a disproportionate consumption of resources. “From an ecological point of view, the office considers these devices to be a completely wrong development. If such devices end up in the environment as small waste, they can also emit pollutants into the environment,” said a city spokesman.
What do experts say about the trend? The skepticism is great. Although there are no long-term studies, the scientist Michael Klein says: “There are initial indicators that e-cigarettes are dangerous. They can produce respiratory diseases, for example bronchitis.” In addition, erectile dysfunction can occur in young men. “Of course, classic cigarettes are more risky overall. But the way disposable vapes are being promoted to the public is of concern. The marketing is great, very chic. The color also appeals to young women, and the devices are also reminiscent of minicomputers. That affects young people. It’s important to remember that vapes are an introduction to the world of smoking,” says Klein. Once you become addicted to the nicotine in vapes, you would hardly hesitate to reach for the conventional fag.
Could they vapes ensure a comeback of the cigarette? There really is a chance. “In recent years, smoking has been given a negative image. So the number of smokers has gone down. Now we are witnessing the reverse trend. With clever marketing and effective product placement, the vape is presented in a lifestyle-oriented manner,” says addiction expert Rainer Schmidbauer. “This is how prevention is thrown back miles, it’s a tragedy.” The idea of the e-cigarette was quite charming. “It was designed for smokers who have not yet quit but are looking for a better health option. Today it’s more about introducing young adults to the topic of smoking in the first place,” says Schmidbauer. It is difficult for the state to punish violations of the Youth Protection Act. “The hype is huge and availability is high,” says Schmidbauer, head of the Addiction Prevention Institute in Linz.