What the last 12 months with disposable vapes has shown us?
Over the past year there has been a shift in the ‘social smoking’ culture amongst young adults in the UK. Many of those who would pick up smoking in there 20s have opted for a safer and better tasting choice.
While at university I noticed that smoking was very common amongst fellow students who had picked up the habit from nights out. The odd cigarette in the smoking shelter of a bar would then turn into a full pack to last the week.
Fast forward to today and it is more common to see young adults with brightly coloured disposable vapes rather than a pack of cigarettes. Is this a sign of a cultural shift amongst 18-30 year olds? Lets take a look at what has caused this and whether it can lead to de-normalising smoking in the UK.
Like with any industry there are trends that come and go, some lasting much longer than others. When disposable vapes first hit the market, experienced vapers saw this as a short-term fad that would be gone in a few weeks.
However, disposable vapes have continued to grow in popularity even now. But they aren’t new to the market. disposable vapes have been around for years but why have they become so popular now?
The main selling point is that it is the easiest way to vape. There are no e-liquid top ups, coil replacements or setting adjustments. Just inhale into the mouthpiece and the kit will do the rest.
In the past many smokers have struggled to make the switch as they find it much easier to light a cigarette than set up a vape kit. Even a starter kits can be too much hassle for some smokers who will use it as an excuse to go back to cigarettes. However, disposable vapes are even easier to use than cigarettes. They also come in very strong and sweet flavours.
The rise of disposable vapes has also been aided by the accessibility of these kits. In every corner shop or supermarket where they sell cigarettes, they will also have disposable vapes.
Whilst the majority of disposable vape users are existing vapers or those making the switch from smoking, there has been a huge growth in 18-30 year old social smoker use.
These are people who only smoke in social settings such as a night out. However, these could be considered as non-smokers.
As an Industry our mission is to stop people from smoking. Traditionally the way we have done this is through providing safer alternatives to existing smokers to help them make the switch. Now with disposable vapes we are able to prevent those who would normally start smoking from picking up a cigarette.
The rise in disposable vapes started in the US before it hit the UK. A study from the University of Michigan (1) found the youth smoking rate had drastically decreased over the past 20 years. In 2021 this figure hit an all time low of 2.3%. This fall has coincided with the rise of vaping, and an increase in youth vaping rates.
This is despite the fact the strong anti-vaping lobby would have you believe that vaping is used as a gateway to get people onto cigarettes. This is far from the truth and studies like the one from the University of Michigan show a fall in youth smoking. It is also, important to highlight that ‘non-smokers’ who are attracted to vaping would most likely start smoking if the option wasn’t there.
Unfortunately, the policy makers in the US have continued to restrict the vaping industry. The latest legislation bans flavoured e-liquid in certain states. The purpose of this was the tackle youth vaping. However it has had the opposite impact according research from JAMA Pediatrics (2). They suggest that the ban in areas such as San Francisco has helped to double the rates of underage use in high schools compared to other districts.
Many in the industry would argue that the rise in disposable vapes has negatively impacted the vaping industry. The swift growth has put a huge spotlight on vaping meaning that those who benefit from restricting the industry have been working even harder to put restrictions in place. Plus, there is a concern of the environment impact of disposable plastic devices.
Despite their reputation, disposable vapes have proven to be one of the most effective was to help people stop smoking. Not only have they appealed to current smokers who have struggled to switch to a starter kit. They have also pre-emptively caught future smokers who may have become hooked on cigarettes.
(1) Smoking rates decline steeply in teens in 2021. The Truth Initiative. Jan 2022. [Online] Available from: https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/traditional-tobacco-products/smoking-rates-decline-steeply-teens-2021
(2) A. Friedman. A Difference-in-Differences Analysis of Youth Smoking and a Ban on Sales of Flavored Tobacco Products in San Francisco, California. JAMA Pediatrics. May 2022. [Online] Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2780248
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