E-Cigarette Risk is Almost Zero—According to Pharmacologist



Pharmacologist Prof. Dr. Bernhard-Michael Mayer finds clear words: “A responsible health policy should motivate smokers to switch to e-cigarettes” – and not debate bans or punitive taxes. Mayer, Head of the Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Graz, is invited as an expert in the German Bundestag – and his pre-published statement is a clear criticism of the e-cigarette opponents. Not only does Professor Mayer see no dangers for the vaper or for his fellow human beings (keyword “passive smoking”) – he also attests to the fact that e-cigarettes, have “a historically unique potential for tobacco prevention.”


For the first time, smokers have “a functioning alternative for quitting tobacco consumption”. In order to exploit this potential, Mayer said, “legislators should take measures to increase motivation to switch and promote the development and spread of attractive e-cigarettes.”


One can be very curious about the hearing before the Committee on Food and Agriculture of the German Bundestag next Wednesday (17.2.). Especially since Mayer will present excerpts from the “now widely published evidence for the health benefits of e-cigarettes compared to tobacco cigarettes”. The background is the planned transposition of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD2) into national law, which is currently being prepared. Mayer is clearly in favor of a 1:1 implementation of the directive and warns against a national special approach in Germany.


“The extension of the regulation to nicotine-free e-cigarettes and refill containers is not objectively justified,” says Mayer. This would mean that “propylene glycol or glycerin from drugstores or agricultural needs are also subject to the provisions of the Tobacco Act,” says Mayer. Rather, he urges the German legislator to exercise restraint in the case of planned bans or restrictions: “In view of the health benefits of e-cigarettes and the fact that no one in the world has yet been significantly harmed by the inhalation of e-cigarette aerosol, in this case, it would probably be the non-action in the sense of health care.”



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Only tobacco smoke causes fatal diseases

Mayer also points to experts who estimate the risk of e-cigarettes at about five percent of the risk of tobacco cigarettes. Incidentally, this risk assessment was the basis for the positive assessment of the British health authority Public Health England. “It is clearly proven that the risks from e-cigarettes are very low compared to classic tobacco cigarettes.” At best, e-cigarettes lead to allergic reactions or mild irritation of the respiratory tract, while tobacco smoke leads to fatal diseases, i.e. cancer, heart attack, or stroke. “If you compare the serious consequences, the risk of e-cigarettes is close to zero.”


In contrast to the worried opponents of the e-cigarette, according to the pharmacologist, neither a so-called “gateway effect” can be recognized, i.e. that the e-cigarette is an entry-level addictive substance, nor that the “increase in the use of e-cigarettes requires the prevalence of smoking by minors” – these alleged criticisms have now all been refuted by serious studies.


E-cigarette supports WHO’s Endgame Strategy

Instead of discussing bans, “finally the health benefits” of the e-cigarette should be highlighted in Germany. “Legislators should take steps to increase the motivation of smokers to switch and promote the development and spread of attractive e-cigarettes.” According to Mayer, these include factual information for the population, financial incentives (instead of punitive taxes), promotion of the development of new hardware with improved function and product safety, and maintenance of a wide variety of devices and liquids according to the individual needs of consumers. “If these measures are implemented efficiently, the German government could make a significant contribution to the WHO’s ‘Endgame Strategy’, according to which the prevalence of smoking worldwide is to be reduced to below five percent by 2040.”


Incidentally, the Austrian Constitutional Court had stated in August 2015 that tobacco and e-cigarettes are not the same, and therefore the legal principle “The same must not be treated unequally, unequal things must not be treated equally” applies. The court also relied on Professor Dr. Bernhard-Michael Mayer, who was able to impressively refute the arguments of the concerned e-cigarette opponents. The industry is therefore very excited about the appearance of the pharmacologist in the German Bundestag.