The debate over e-cigarettes in the US is further intensifying. Now scientists have discovered a potentially carcinogenic flavor "in alarmingly high concentration." The substance Pulegon has been detected in products with mint and menthol taste, the researchers of Duke University report in the journal "Jama Internal Medicine".
In the US, pulegon, which is contained in menthol oil, was banned last year as a flavor additive in food. For e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco, however, the chemical is not regulated, the researchers report.
For their study, they analyzed several brands of menthol cigarettes, three brands of e-cigarettes and one kaua tobacco brand, all containing pulegone. For e-cigarettes, the concentration of the substance was up to 1000 times higher than for conventional menthol cigarettes, these did not exceed the threshold value.
Whether and, if so, to what extent these substances are also contained in products on the German market is not clear, said Michal Dobrajc from the association of the e-cigarette trade. "As an industry association, it's not possible for us to get a detailed insight into the composition of the diverse liquids, because the individual recipes of the manufacturers are subject to business secrecy." The members of the association would now be questioned.
US Health Authorities: Call Emergency Team
The news comes at a time when a debate over e-cigarettes has escalated in the US anyway. Nearly 400 people have developed severe lung problems there after the use of e-cigarettes, six have died. Those affected get after coughing attacks, shortness of breath and finally have to be artificially ventilated.
It is still unclear how the diseases can be explained and which substance could have triggered them. A possible cause is vitamin E acetate, an oil that is derived from vitamin E, and in Germany may not be included in liquids for e-cigarettes. In addition, many sufferers consumed THC-containing liquids, which are also banned in Germany. The US health authorities CDC have set up an emergency center to coordinate the investigation of the cases.
There is also another problem. With their flavors, the taste of fruits, chewing gum or popcorn, for example, e-cigarettes are extremely popular among teens in the US. Critics speak of a youth epidemic that has introduced and made hundreds of thousands of nicotine dependent. The lung diseases also affect young people.
US President Donald Trump had announced last week to ban fancy flavors for e-cigarettes. He described the use of e-cigarettes as a "big problem". New York Governor Andrew Cuomo went one step further, banning flavored e-cigarettes. Excluded are only products with tobacco and menthol taste.
Warning about panic in Germany
Nevertheless, experts warn with a view to Germany from a scare tactic. "According to current studies, e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than conventional cigarettes," says Ute Mons of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).
Daniel Kotz, Professor of Addiction Research at the Institute of General Medicine at the University of Düsseldorf, sees it similarly. "I advise against stuffing the devices with stuff that you can get on the internet, and you do not sit in the bathtub with a hair dryer," he says. However, when used properly, electronic cigarettes are not as harmful for a long time as tobacco cigarettes.
In the US, where completely different liquids are on the market, the recommendations look more drastic. As long as it is unclear what the diseases are caused by, the authorities call for cessation of consumption. Those who still want to continue steaming should, according to the CDC, buy no liquids on the street, do not consume oils based on marijuana and do not modify their purchased liquids themselves.