E-cigarette user in London: "Not nicotine, but a reflex and a gesture that young people get used to"
Photo: TOLGA AKMEN / EPA
They come in flavors such as watermelon, cotton candy ice cream or strawberry cheesecake. Electronic cigarettes – also known as "vapes" – are becoming increasingly popular. This brings the producers a million-dollar business. Buy for eight to twelve euros, vape and then throw away: The principle of disposable e-cigarettes is simple.
However, the French government sees them as a risk for young people because they could introduce young people to smoking. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced on Sunday that she would soon ban disposable vapes. Vaping is "not nicotine, but a reflex and a gesture that young people get used to," says Borne. She did not say when the ban will come into force in her interview with RTL Radio, but it will apparently become part of a larger government anti-smoking program. Every year, 75,000 people die as a result of tobacco consumption in France, Borne said. "That's huge."
Disposable electronic cigarettes were introduced in France in 2021. It is already prohibited to sell them to people under the age of 18, but this regulation is often not respected. Advertising of such products is also prohibited.
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In an appeal published in the newspaper "Le Monde" on April 30, 2023, doctors and environmentalists, among others, had called for an "urgent" ban: the e-cigarettes were a burden on health and the environment. They are mainly made of plastic, aluminum and a small lithium-ion battery. Theoretically, they would have to be treated like electrical appliances and disposed of accordingly, for example at a collection point. Practically, they end up in the residual waste, on the street or in the bushes. However, this is also dangerous. If they are not disposed of properly, the batteries can quickly be damaged and ignite during rebalancing or under the paper press – sometimes even on board the garbage truck into which the bin was emptied.
According to a study, two disposable vapes are thrown away every second in the UK alone. The lithium contained in it would be enough to produce about 1200 batteries for electric cars over the course of the year.
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In Germany, too, criticism is growing along with the trend, especially because of the poor environmental balance. At the beginning of March 2023, the Bundesrat called on the German government to advocate a Europe-wide ban. It is estimated that five million disposable e-cigarettes are sold in Germany every month, according to the Association Alliance for Tobacco-Free Enjoyment e.V. This means that disposable e-cigarette products now have a market share of around 40 percent. Numerous influencers advertise the products on YouTube or TikTok – "vaping" is becoming part of the lifestyle. In Germany, too, youth advocates fear that the colorful disposable e-cigarettes with their sweet flavors could tip a lot of teenagers, especially since some are visually modeled on real cigarettes.