E-cigarettes: BfR gives the all-clear - no life-threatening danger

E-cigarettes: BfR gives the all-clear - no life-threatening danger

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So far, no serious poisoning from e-cigarettes in Germany

After several deaths in connection with the use of e-cigarettes were brought about in the USA, there is also a great deal of uncertainty among users in this country. Now the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) gives the all-clear: No dangerous poisoning from "vaping" has occurred in Germany so far.

"In the United States, after using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), there were more than 2,000 cases, some with severe lung damage and 47 deaths (as of November 20, 2019)," reports the BfR in a recent announcement. So far, however, there have been no comparable cases in Germany. In this country, severe poisoning has so far only occurred in connection with the swallowing of the refill solutions (liquids).

Comprehensive evaluation of possible poisoning cases

On the basis of a comprehensive evaluation of inquiries from the poison information centers in Germany, the BfR, together with the Society for Clinical Toxicology, recorded possible cases of poisoning from e-cigarettes. However, the majority of the inquiries concerned the unintentional ingestion of the liquids, often by children. Two life-threatening poisonings were also among the registered cases.

Requests rarely for regular use

From May 2018 to February 2019, a total of 167 cases of poisoning and cases of suspected poisoning were recorded more precisely for the PiMont study, according to the BfR. It showed that only eight percent of the cases were complaints after regular use. In addition, after inhaling the steam, no or only slight symptoms appeared in over 90 percent of the cases. Only one case was reported in which there were moderate complaints (repeated vomiting) after inhaling the steam.

Ingestion of the liquids is an underestimated risk

By far the most common reason for inquiries is the accidental swallowing of liquids with 82 percent of cases, reports the BfR. Small children are often affected and the nicotine mostly contained in e-liquids can lead to significant health problems if swallowed in small quantities. This results in severe vomiting, for example, and if larger amounts are ingested, nicotine can also lead to life-threatening symptoms of poisoning.

Keep Liquds childproof

A total of six moderate cases of poisoning and two severe cases of poisoning were due to the ingestion of the liquids, reports the BfR. The severe poisoning has caused severe disturbances in consciousness and other symptoms. Ingestion of the liquids is particularly high for children. "E-liquids should therefore always be stored in suitable, labeled containers with a child-resistant closure," the Federal Institute said.

Vitamin E acetate believed to be the cause of death in the United States

According to the BfR, no persistent breathing difficulties and lung damage have been observed after inhaling the e-cigarette vapor. Risks comparable to those in the USA do not appear to arise from the liquids permitted in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the cause of severe lung diseases in the USA is believed to be vitamin E acetate, which is contained in some liquids and has been detected in the lung fluid of patients.

Continued vigilance

Although no cases of serious lung damage from e-cigarettes are known in Germany, "we must continue to be vigilant about the use of e-cigarettes," warns the BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. Above all, it is strongly advised not to mix the liquids yourself. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Study on e-cigarettes: So far no dangerous poisoning from “vaping” (published December 6, 2019),

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