E-cigarette a medicine: trade prohibited?

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Federal government assesses e-cigarettes as medicinal products

The success story of e-cigarettes could come to an abrupt end, because the federal government has classified nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes as medicinal products subject to authorization. The sale of the nicotine-containing liquid, which is vaporized in the e-cigarettes, without the corresponding approval would therefore be illegal.

The Federal Government's response to a small request from the Left Bundestag faction is explosive for the e-cigarette market. Because, according to the Federal Government, nicotine-containing liquid is to be regarded as a drug that requires approval. If approval is missing, sales or trading are prohibited. The coveted electric glow sticks could therefore practically only be operated with the still available liquids without nicotine.

Up to two million users of the e-cigarette For the up to two million users of the e-cigarette in Germany according to the manufacturer, the position of the federal government could bring considerable restrictions, since from now on the trade of nicotine-containing liquids in its previous form is no longer permitted . So far, the legal situation has been rather opaque, with some states, such as North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria, opting for a ban, while others have not taken any action against the sale of e-cigarettes. After the Bundestag faction of the left had asked the German government for legal clarification in a small question, the latter announced on Monday that e-cigarettes should be classified as medicinal products or medical devices as soon as nicotine was vaporized in them. Selling nicotine-containing liquids without approval is prohibited. However, the use of e-cigarettes is still permitted, but not everywhere, according to the position of the federal government. E-cigarette smokers must comply with the requirements of the non-smoking protection laws, which for example prohibit smoking in train stations, trams, trains or buses. The individual national laws on non-smoking protection also apply here

Internet trade in nicotine-containing liquids also banned With regard to the frequently used distribution channel for e-cigarettes and liquids via the Internet, the Federal Government stated that online trade was also prohibited. By shipping merchants violate the German Medicines Act, which is why the liquids can be “seized and confiscated,” the federal government said. According to media reports, this has already happened in a first major raid. During two search campaigns in Schwelm (North Rhine-Westphalia) and the Hanover region, 45,000 vials of e-cigarette liquid were confiscated by customs, and the Minister for Health of North Rhine-Westphalia, Barbara Steffens (Alliance 90 / The Greens), sees her rejection of the E-cigarette confirmed and in view of the Federal Government's statement via a spokesman said that North Rhine-Westphalia's previous "line was clearly confirmed once again". The North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of Health had already described the sale of liquids as "illegal" at the end of last year because the substances are not approved in this country.

Health risks of e-cigarettes The possible health risks also played an important role in the ban on e-cigarettes in North Rhine-Westphalia. Above all, the lack of long-term studies on the health consequences was now a major point of criticism in the Federal Government's communication. "The Federal Government takes a possible health risk from e-cigarettes that have been on the market for a few years very seriously," said the official government statement. The government officials cite, for example, propylene glycol, which forms 90 percent of the e-cigarette vapor, as justification for the concern about possible health risks. Propylene glycol can cause "acute irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes" and also cause "impairment of respiratory function", said the federal government. Also, "side effects such as narrowing of the airways in a current study in e-cigarette smokers were detected after only five minutes," the Federal Government said. Politicians also believe that the function of the e-cigarette as an entry-level product should not be underestimated, especially among young people. (fp)

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Image: Viktor Mildenberger / pixelio.de

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