Watermelons, blueberries, apples, grapes, and mangoes; since we were children, we were informed that it was imperative we should consume at least 5 fruits or vegetables a day to maintain our health. However, it appears that in the last 4 years, teenagers and young adults have been consuming more fruit than ever; not from fruit platters or smoothies… but from fruit-flavoured vapes. Vapes, also known as e-cigarettes, have played a major disruption in the smoke-free goals that the UK has enforced, which we were on track to reach by 2030 (Gov.uk, 2022). For instance, the government enforced a nationwide ban on menthol cigarettes in 2020, however it appears that those who were partial to a menthol cigarette could easily convert to a menthol vape with a high percentage of nicotine, minus the bitter tobacco aftertaste. As vapes have polluted the smoke-free goal we were ever so close to reaching, it is vital to analyse the rise of e-cigarettes and how the world renowned ‘safe smoking’ product has set our smoking habits back by decades.
Originally produced and marketed as the ‘healthier’ alternative to cigarettes, e-cigarettes first entered the UK market in 2007, with a slow growth into the public eye. Despite this, the introduction of American company Juul, founded in 2015, thrust e-cigarettes into the international limelight, with many high-profile celebrities using their modern, sleek, and inexpensive products with countless flavours, from cool cucumber to crème brulé. These combined factors fortunately increased appeal to those who smoked cigarettes, and unfortunately to those who did not. America faced all-time lows of adolescence smoking; however, this came at a grave cost; many users were not aware that the nicotine volume of one Juul pod was equivalent to a 20 pack of cigarettes. The volume of high school students being hospitalised due to excessive vaping use were increasing at an alarming rate, and with 72% of high schoolers using Juul devices (The Guardian, 2019), the US effectively banned Juul products after the Food and Drug Administration was not provided with valid evidence that Juul products did not harbour high levels of toxicity (FDA, 2022). Despite the ban, many users have transferred to disposable vapes; with no battery required, users can enjoy 3000 puffs of sweet nicotine at an inexpensive price. A ‘pack a day’ has simply transformed into ‘a vape a day’.
Alongside the countless sweet flavours- of which 37% of users explain their purpose of vaping (Gov.uk, 2022)- there are several other factors that encourage increased vape use. For instance, vapes consist of water vapour, with no apparent carcinogens, eradicating harsh smells which act as an incentive to vape wherever the user wishes; from a driver’s seat to their own bedrooms. The accessibility of vapes is often associated with reasonable pricing; many vape shops encourage multibuy savings, with my own close friends buying 4 vapes for £20- this shocking amount often lasts just under a week, and my friends are quick to restock in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Despite a high influx of vape purchases, the question still stands: If vapes are deemed healthier than cigarettes, why are many users facing health complications?
As e-cigarettes have been praised for the removal of raw tobacco, a major carcinogen and leading ingredient for lung cancer, there has been various ingredients such as nicotine salts that deliver the same ‘rush’ and accelerate addiction. Nicotine salts are comprised from tobacco leaf and allow particularly high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily with minimal irritation in comparison to cigarettes. Despite the reduced irritation, nicotine salts can still pose health risks, with rapper Doja Cat cancelling her tour and vowing to quit vaping after her prolonged use had led to infected tonsils (Billboard, 2022).
Although many e-cigarettes utilise the use of nicotine salts, the UK is continuing to announce regulations in order to maintain public health and supervise the high influx of vapers. Unsurprisingly, as there is minimal public knowledge regarding nicotine salts, approximately two-thirds of Juul users aged 15-24 did not know that Juul products contained nicotine (CDC, Undated). It is vital to understand that the lack of knowledge in what young adults are vaping is a direct correlation in the increasing cases of hospitalisation, lung issues and gum disease.
As the e-cigarette market is still relatively new, there is a significant lack of research that analyses the health risks associated with long-term vape use. E-cigarettes will continue to dominate the habits of young adults; they are flaunted on TikTok, commonly used in the smoking areas of pubs and clubs, and are sold on every street corner. Though we are yet to see major reforms, it is clear that the sweet and inexpensive taste of our cherished vapes has put us in a chokehold that we are not ready to be released from; the woes of mango flavoured addiction simply taste too good.