You see more and more of them: people puffing on small, longish plastic tubes. This seemingly strange pastime is mainly enjoyed by smokers - either to end their addition or to consume nicotine in places where conventional cigarettes are taboo.
The actual benefits of these "vaporizers" is not reliably evidenced, potential risks for consumers are still insufficiently researched. The French standardization association AFNOR now proposed the establishment of a technical committee on e-cigarettes and e-liquids to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). Its objectives would be to develop European safety standards for such products.
Vaporization instead of combustion
The principle of e-cigarettes is relatively simple: in a small tube modelled on real cigarettes, a liquid is vaporized, powered by a battery. The resulting aerosol is inhaled by the user like classic cigarette smoke.
While the absence of smoke is an undeniable advantage, effects and side-effects are uncertain. Although e-cigarettes are praised as a method of smoking cessation, there are concerns about their health effects according to a report of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.
Declaration of ingredients necessary
First steps to regulate e-cigarettes and e-liquids are made in EU Directive 2014/40/EU concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products that became effective in May 2014.
The Viennese physician and associate professor Dr. Ernest Groman of the Medical University of Vienna who also heads the Nicotine Institute, however, calls for clarification as to "whether e-cigarettes are to be considered medicinal products, medical products, consumer products or tobacco products. The EU Directive is rather vague in this respect."
Moreover, it would be necessary to inform final consumers of the substances contained in the liquids according to the expert: "And then, there have to be regular checks to verify whether the composition of the liquids - the contents of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin and flavorings - corresponds to the manufacturer's specifications."
Safety for consumers
The future CEN/TC "Electronic Cigarettes and E-Liquids" is to develop generally applicable standards on the manufacture of e-cigarettes and e-liquids and, thereby, ensure safe and trustworthy products for an estimated 10 million consumers in Europe.
The proposal on the TC's creation is currently in the inquiry phase. If it is successful, the Austrian mirror committee will be the existing Committee 205 "Food and feeding stuffs analysis" of Austrian Standards.