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The Disposable Vape Takeover

Greg Devine


Young woman Vaping

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Young people always need something to rebel against. Think back to when you were a teenager, what was something everyone did that was terrible for their health, but which appeared cool and fashionable? It might have been recreational drugs or smoking cigarettes.

These days, it’s disposable vapes.

Vapes have been around for a while now. Synonymous with large smoke clouds created by massive handheld machines, they didn’t really take off within my generation. Now, though, if you go where young people hang out, you’ll see these same large clouds of smoke coming from brightly coloured sticks.

Red Vape Pen

The new disposable electronic cigarettes are poorly regulated. Young people buy vapes, such as Elf Bars or Geek Bars, which come in many different tropical flavours, from newsagents and corner shops. Whilst they’re not good for your health, in the vape world, these two devices are considered healthier in comparison to other vaping options; however, they are incredibly high in nicotine. They contain 2% nicotine salt, which is as much as UK regulations allow—however, this claim should be taken with a pinch of salt, as many people believe they contain a much higher amount. It’s even said that smoking a whole Elf or Geek bar is equivalent to smoking around 50 cigarettes. When I consider that these devices rarely last users more than a week, the sheer volume of nicotine they’ll be smoking must be seriously damaging.

There’s another brand available, known as Elux Legends. Ask a young person their favourite brand of vape and this will probably be their answer. Their legality does seem to cross into a bit of a grey area. Again, they only seem to be sold in corner shops and newsagents. I remember going with a friend to pick up these popular Elux vapes, only for the shopkeeper to say he’d had to stop selling them after receiving a fine. These vapes are much larger than Elf and Geek bars, yet they still claim to only have 2% nicotine salt. I highly doubt this. Having just one drag of an Elux, in comparison to a Geek or Elf bar, and the difference is instantly noticeable. They’re pure flavour mixed with nicotine, and they offer a big rush to the user—almost like a recreational drug.

They’ve become a staple on nights out. Smoking areas are constantly crammed with young people creating clouds of smoke through their sticks of nicotine. Cigarettes are a rarity, especially amongst 18- and 19-year-olds. The only people I’ve really seen smoking traditional tobacco products are 20+.

Young couple vaping

It’s on nights out where people tend to be introduced to disposable vapes. Social smoking can be quite popular, which leads to the sharing of vapes. Being that we’re only a year out of pandemic restrictions, it can be an odd sight, considering the number of germs that could be spread.

So, what’s the big deal with disposable vapes? After all, they’re much cheaper than traditional cigarettes. Elf and Geek bars tend to be around £5. I’ve seen plenty of deals on them too, like three for £10 at a Sheffield corner shop. An Elux bar retails for around £11, but they will last much longer (despite, supposedly, having the same nicotine content as Elf and Geek bars); their flavouring is also much stronger. They also produce a much nicer smell than cigarettes, which increases their appeal amongst younger audiences.

I’ve seen people who’ve never smoked in their lives become addicted to nicotine, thanks to disposable vapes. There’s not as much stigma around them, like there is with cigarettes; their fruity flavourings also make people more inclined to try them. Such a high content of nicotine means it’s easy to become addicted, and with so many different flavours, boredom isn’t really a factor.

Being disposable presents another concern: the environment. Vapes are made of plastic, with a small battery and some cotton; they’re not exactly recyclable. Their popularity has also led to venues being very relaxed on smoking indoors. Currently, dance floors in nightclubs needn’t have fog machines, as the vapour from disposable e-cigarettes is more than enough. Club staff just don’t appear bothered—some even smoke vapes themselves.

Vapes were initially branded as a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes. I can’t help but feel they’re even worse for you. Despite this, young people are deep into the vape craze and I can’t see this stopping any time soon.

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