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a column by Dominik Burda

When I was a little boy I thought cigarettes were cool. I mean everyone smoked - relatives, my teachers, even the minister after the service. So when I was a kid, tobacco use was ubiquitous, people smoked everywhere.

I still remember the day I smoked my first cigarette. I was just 14 years old and felt incredibly grown up. My friends and I crept secretly behind the soccer field and lit cigarettes. The calamity took its course.

In the years that followed, my smoking behavior developed into a habit that I could no longer control. I smoked every day. Cigarettes had taken a firm place in my life - they were my constant companion in good times and bad.

However, I knew deep down that smoking was bad for me. I felt the effects on my health and well-being.

I kept trying to quit, but fighting the addiction seemed hopeless.

Was it because my will wasn‘t strong enough that I couldn‘t quit, or was it because the conventional cigarette was an industrially engineered mix of chemicals that was highly addictive? That would be totally crazy if tobacco companies had increased addictive behavior with additives...

When I was already in my 30s, I happened upon an innovative alternative - the e-cigarette. At first I was skeptical that it could really be a solution to my problem. But I was willing to try anything to finally be free from cigarette addiction.

Said and done! Over time I got used to vaping and noticed my body slowly recovering. My cough went away, my sense of smell improved and I had more energy. It was liberating to know that I was no longer addicted to cigarettes. Finally smoke-free... until today!

E-cigarette flavors have played a particularly important role in my successful quitting tobacco use. The variety of flavors when vaping makes a decisive contribution to the fact that the tobacco cigarette no longer tastes good. The risk of relapse is therefore low. Therefore, the current ban on flavors for e-cigarettes demanded by the Federal Drug Commissioner is in no way understandable. This undoubtedly not only heated my spirits, but also sparked one or the other debate in and outside the industry. Representatives of „die Grünen“ also support the demand, but have so far encountered resistance in the coalition.

If you look at the National Strategy on Drugs and Addiction Policy of the Federal Drug Commissioner, you will find not only the main point of harm reduction but also the goal of reducing tobacco consumption among adults. However, at the same time, there are calls for the ban on flavors in e-cigarettes, although a study commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Health with over 3,000 participants showed that e-cigarette flavors are very important for a large number of people who want to quit smoking . According to surveys, a significant number of vapers would also start smoking again if flavors were banned.

According to the drug and addiction report of the federal government‘s drug commissioner in 2019, e-cigarettes have a greatly reduced health risk. In addition, there are no pyrolysis products that have an addictive effect like with a normal cigarette. (Source: BFR 2019, on behalf of the federal government‘s drug commissioner). In summary, one can say: E-cigarettes represent a harm reduction for smokers - there is only one better alternative, namely to quit smoking completely...if it weren‘t for the resulting pyrolysis products and additives that are highly addictive.

In England, one can take an example of how harm reduction is properly publicized. According to Public Health England, the health risk from e-cigarettes is 95 percent lower than tobacco cigarettes and the risk of cancer is at least 99.5 percent lower. England aims to be smoke free by 2030 and will even give away e-cigarettes to smokers to help them quit smoking.

A rejection of the flavor ban would therefore represent a milestone for the e-cigarette industry. But is it also the nail in the coffin for the tobacco industry? In any case, the failure of this initiative would be a severe setback for those for whom the e-cigarette is a thorn in the side in terms of sales losses or market share.

This should encourage our industry to continue finding new ways and staying true to our course to reduce tobacco use and improve people‘s health.

The answer certainly does not lie in strict prohibition measures, but in a holistic approach to promoting a healthier lifestyle. It‘s a slow process, but one that gives hope. If we and our associations continue to persevere, some politicians and opponents will soon realize that this is the right way.

Only in this way can we actually overcome the era of conventional tobacco and create a healthier future for all. The failed flavor ban, symbolic of the coffin nail for the conventional tobacco industry in Germany, could in fact be the wake-up call that the tobacco companies needed to realize that old tactics are no longer effective and that the e-cigarette can no longer be stopped.

But: who once add addictive additives, they won‘t be believed anymore – that‘s why I suggest as a consumer to buy products from small and medium-sized e-cigarette manufacturers rather than those from large corporations.

After all, it‘s not just about making money, it‘s also about persuasion. It won‘t be long before the corporations continue to intensify their efforts in our industry.

That‘s why the following should apply in our industry: Stay together instead of fighting each other! Together we are strong and can set new standards. Because we have more than enough opponents.


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