Disposable e-cigarettes are currently the talk of the town and you can see them at every corner: versatile, colourful and appealing, they often lie next to the sweets in the kiosk. At the same time, they can be addictive and sickening and they are a disaster for the environment.

We asked ourselves: What’s actually in disposable e-cigarettes?

Our new video of the same name takes a closer look at a disposable e-cigarette and shows its components and the raw materials used. And we investigate: Where do the raw materials come from? And what does that mean for local people and the environment?

What’s actually in disposable e-cigarettes?

Disposables are a waste

In Germany, the issue of wasting resources by using disposable products has already long been part of the public debate. Meanwhile, disposable e-cigarettes have also become an issue.

Most recently, the representatives of the federal states discussed the issue on 3 March. At the meeting, the Bundesrat spoke out in favour of a ban on disposable e-cigarettes because these products waste valuable resources. Therefore, the Bundesrat also calls on the Federal Government to advocate for an effective ban at the German and European level. At EU level, the planned Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation could be suitable for this purpose because it aims at protecting valuable resources. Thus, the sale of disposable e-cigarettes could be effectively prevented.

Now the ball is in the Federal Government’s court. The catch is that no deadline has been set for the federal government to act.

Unfairtobacco has already campaigned for a ban in advance. The decision is a step in the right direction, but the lack of a deadline for the federal government is questionable. The new Ecodesign Regulation is announced for the first quarter of 2024 and the implementation in German legislation will only begin afterwards. However, the problems in the supply chains and for environmental protection are – and our video shows this – much more pressing.

What does a ban mean for environmental and youth protection?

The violations of human rights and the destruction of the environment occurring at the beginning of the supply chain in tobacco growing and lithium and copper mining would remain, even if there were no more disposable e-cigarettes on the market in Germany and the EU. Of course, the same raw materials are also used in refillable and rechargeable e-cigarettes, but far less of these materials are required.

In view of the quantities of raw materials used for electrical devices in Germany or the EU, disposable e-cigarettes are not the biggest problem, but they are a completely unnecessary waste of resources. And another environmental hazard is the resulting e-waste. That is why we support a sales ban.

This is also in the interest of youth protection. Such a ban removes a product from the market that has a strong appeal to young people in particular and appears to be inexpensive.

Nevertheless, rechargeable, refillable e-cigarettes will continue to be promoted with marketing campaigns targeted at youth and young adults, especially in social media, but also at events and at points of sale.

We call for effective supply chain laws

The German Supply Chain Act (officially: Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz) has been in force since 1 January 2023. It obliges German-based companies with more than 3,000 employees to respect human rights and the environment in their supply chains. However, it has some shortcomings that should be eliminated in a further step.

Together with the German Supply Chain Law Initiative and the campaign Espinar Cannot Wait, we are therefore calling for an effective EU due diligence law that obliges companies to prevent human rights violations and environmental destruction in their supply chains and to compensate people harmed by their practices.

Do you really want to vape this stuff? I would always have to think of the damages that tobacco and lithium and copper cause. Honestly, you could also chill out with a tasty piece of cake.