Since their introduction in France in 2007, the use of vaping products has spread very quickly, and the national market continues to expand. What are these new products, how are they regulated and what risks can they pose to our health? Update on ANSES’s work
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Updated on 10/11/2020
What is meant by vaping products?
Vaping products are electronic “vaping” devices, i.e. products – or any component thereof, including cartridges and reservoirs and devices without cartridges or reservoirs – that can be used via a mouthpiece for the consumption of vapour containing nicotine. Electronic vaping devices, more commonly known as e-cigarettes or vapes may be disposable or refillable. They usually consist of three main parts: an atomiser, an e-liquid tank and a battery. Vaping products also include refill cartridges and containers, i.e. receptacles holding a liquid that potentially contains nicotine. As the name suggests, refill containers are used to refill an electronic device with the liquid to be vaporised.
Most e-liquids reported to be sold on the French market have the following characteristics:
- They consist of a dilution agent such as propylene glycol (PG) and/or glycerol (vegetable glycerine [VG]), or possibly 1,3-propanediol, and sometimes water and ethanol.
- They have a median nicotine content of approximately 6 mg/ml.
- They contain various substances imparting taste or flavour. The most common are vanillin, maltol, menthol compounds and esters with a fruity aroma. Sugars and sweeteners (e.g. glucose/fructose and sucralose), acids used in nicotine salts and plant extracts are also found.
Key figures on vaping products (2019–2020 data) are as follows:
- more than 33,000 products reported on the market
- nearly 70,000 different trade references
- more than 1,200 substances used as ingredients
- usually between 2 and 16 ingredients per e-liquid.
What the regulations say
With the entry into force of Directive 2014/40/EU on 20 May 2016, vaping products such as electronic devices and liquids for vaping have been given a special regulatory framework. Under this framework, the nicotine content of e-liquids is limited to 20 mg/ml and the volume of refill containers to 10 ml. The framework also sets reporting obligations whereby manufacturers and importers are required to submit information on the characteristics, composition and emissions of products to the competent authorities before placing the products on the European market. As consumer products, vaping products are subject to the general safety obligation as well as to specific requirements (e.g. banned ingredients, hazardous chemical mixes and electrical equipment).
>> Find out more about regulations in France (in French)
What are the health risks
Since their introduction, e-cigarettes have stimulated scientific and societal debate on the risks associated with their use and potential benefits in helping people cut down smoking. Such questions are the subject of epidemiological and experimental studies to acquire the necessary scientific knowledge.
Potential risks come from the chemicals emitted by the vaping device when used and which are inhaled by vapers and possibly the people around them. This includes substances used as e-liquid ingredients and contaminants from these, compounds that potentially form in the mixture or in the spray and those that could migrate from the electronic cigarette.
What ANSES is doing
ANSES is carrying out work to improve knowledge of vaping products marketed in France and to assess the risks associated with these new practices.
As part of its work to process and analyse the information reported on tobacco and related products, the Agency publishes and regularly updates a list of reported products along with their characteristics and composition, as well as any discrepancies in the information submitted by manufacturers.
Availability of data reported by manufacturers and identified discrepancies
The Agency has already coordinated and funded three studies:With a view to carrying out a risk assessment for inhaled substances, ANSES has initiated several studies to rank them according to several hazard criteria and estimate consumer exposure in relation to different vaping practices.
- A study mapping out economic players and the social and health controversy surrounding these products.
- A survey on the practices of French vapers conducted by the BVA polling institute in February 2020. The objective was to collect detailed information at source on consumer habits as well as technical details on the products and devices used.
- A study of accidental poisoning reports carried out in partnership with poison control centres and following up on the first assessment published in 2017.