To live in London in 2023 is to be perpetually engulfed in a cloud of sweet, cloying vapor. The scent of Blue Razz Lemonade replaces traffic fumes; Banana Ice covers the rancid smell of trash.
Disposable vapes are everywhere. More elegant than their bulkier and rechargeable counterparts, easier to get your hands on and less expensive too, their use has exploded in popularity among adults – and, alarmingly, among young people.
A 2023 Report from the UK’s anti-smoking foundation, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found that one in five children had tried vaping, with almost 70% saying their most frequently used vape was disposable. In November, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual national survey on tobacco use among young people; it revealed that disposable vapes were the most common type of ecigarette used by young people across America.
This popularity caused a sort of panic. The doctors are call for bans; schools have together up vape detectors. At the start of 2021, smoking and vaping were actually declining among young people aged 18 to 24 in the UK. Then disposable vapes arrived and the numbers exploded.
The use of electronic cigarettes among young people has triple over the last three years. According to Harry Tattan-Birch, a researcher at University College London, it’s “crazy”. And as vaping rates increase, one would expect a sharp decline in smoking, but that hasn’t happened either, meaning overall nicotine consumption is increasing in the UK. As a result, says Tattan-Birch, specific concerns about disposable vapes need to be addressed.
The big question is whether young people who use e-cigarettes would likely have started smoking anyway. The data shows that there are now a growing proportion of young people who would otherwise probably not smoke who are using them, says Sharon Cox, principal investigator of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group at University College of Texas. London. The important thing now, Cox adds, is to determine whether this is a trend. Are disposable vapes just a fad that will eventually go out of fashion, or will young people continue to use them recreationally? Instead of waiting for that to happen, “now is the time to act,” she says.
A variety of things make disposable vapes so appealing to young people. For one thing, their low price — only about $6.20 — is cheaper than the average price of a pack of cigarettes. Convenience is another factor. Instead of having to individually purchase all the different parts needed for a rechargeable ecigarette, disposable vapes are prepped and ready to use: “perfectly suited to deliver a good dose of nicotine without too much brain power,” says Hattan-Birch. They are elegant and brightly colored. On TikTok, people match their vape with their outfits.