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There has always been great cause for concern when it comes to children being exposed to Vaping. The specific age demographic we’re discussing here is 11-17 year olds. Things have been put in place to combat and limit the exposure, such as restrictions on advertisements of Vaping on TV, Radio and public literature, as well as recently introducing blanket bans on social media such as Tik Tok and Instagram where the primary user base is aged between 11-18 years old.
Anti-Vaping groups, as well as the UK Government have consistently stressed that there is an ever rising problem with youth vaping numbers increasing, especially since the boom in popularity of Disposable Vapes on the market, with many calling for these to be banned as they seem to be the root of the problem.
A recent survey conducted by Action on Smoking and Health took a deep dive into looking at the current state of youth vaping within the UK, and the results make for some interesting reading. Which is exactly what I’m going to discuss within this article. Let’s get into it!
The Government Vs Disposable Vapes
Disposable Vapes have really boomed in popularity in the last 18 months I’d estimate. They seem to be on sale in nearly every shop you go in, from convenience stores, to supermarkets, to mobile phone repair shops, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to sell the most in demand thing in the Vaping world that’s probably ever existed.
But it’s these small little brightly coloured devices that seem to be bringing down the reputation of the Vaping industry due to the problems they are causing. Millions are being chucked into landfill every month due to them not being recyclable despite being made out of plastic, and they’re also becoming very popular to be used by underage teens (more on this later)
It’s these problems that have enticed anti vaping campaigners to speak out and call for them to be banned from sale to stop these problems increasing, but they aren’t the only ones as the Government have also waded in with several MPs making calls for a ban to be implemented to stop youth vaping numbers from increasing more.
Sleaford MP Dr Caroline Johnson is probably the most prominent figure leading these calls due to the fact that she was the one who actually wrote a bill calling for Disposables to be banned which is currently at the second stage of reading in the House Of Commons.
In this bill, Dr Johnson makes her case by using facts and figures relating specifically to the youth vaping numbers which makes up the primary drive for this ban, as well as speaking on the environmental problems they appear to be causing as well. She also brings up the sly advertisement of these devices on social media from big companies like Elf Bar and ELUX, as well as discussing the problems which arose only a month prior to this bill being read which was Elf Bars that were not TPD compliant being sold in major UK Supermarkets.
The primary focus here by Dr Johnson is the great cause for concern that they are responsible for the youth vaping numbers to be as high as they currently are, and fears that things will only get worse unless something is done. She does give the fact that “One in five 15 year olds consider themselves E-Cigarette users” according to the NHS website, but on some investigation, this actually was only 9% and when they say “user” this covers everything from frequent user, to occasional so it does sound a lot worse than it is.
The Bill was due for a second reading last month to progress it through, but this has now been pushed right back to November which really does make me wonder why such a long delay was imposed on it if there was such a cause for concern?
A public consultation was launched by the Government due to end on June 6th this year, and Action on Smoking and Health swooped in to give a current update on the state of youth vaping in the UK which we’re now going to take a look at.
The Current Situation Of Youth Vaping
Action on Smoking And Health are arguably the leading source for facts, figures and information when it comes to Vaping and I’ve referenced their work plenty of times in some of my previous articles.
They carry out various different surveys across the year relating to all things vaping, and the most notable one is the one they conduct which looks at Vaping behaviour amongst youths/teens in the UK. And this year’s survey results have just been published as part of their response to the public consultation launched by the Government.
YouGov took the helm of conducting the survey as always on behalf of ASH and posed a number of questions to a group of 11-17 year olds which related to vaping, ranging from their knowledge of it right to their usage of Vaping devices as well.
The primary figure that really stands out is the fact that “Experimental Vaping” has increased significantly in the last year since the last survey was conducted, rising from 7.6% to 11.6% which is an increase of over 50% which is understandably a touch concerning.
But in contrast, there actually has not been any significant changes when it comes to the amount of youths both currently smoking as well as currently vaping. In fact, the amount of youths currently smoking has declined from last year from 4.8% down to 3.6% but the amount who are currently vaping has seen a very slight increase from 6.9% in 2022, to 7.6% in 2023. So, does a very slight increase in the number of “current vapers” warrant all these calls for bans?
Who or What Is To Blame For This Rise?
It’s pretty common knowledge that children who are in their Teens are at the most experimental stage, as well as easily influenced by their peers. And this translates well when it comes to youths trying and using Vaping devices.
As stated above, 11.6% of the amount of youths in this survey admitted to trying a vape over the course of the year, and this is quite a broad category as it could mean they had a single puff on someone’s, or a few, the clarity isn’t there on just how much they have experimented with it.
Moving on to the topic of peer pressure, and the survey posed the question of how they came to trying out vaping. 73% of them said their first vape was given them, with 2/3rd’s of them saying it was by a friend, but moving over to the youths who fall under the “current vaper” category, 72% of them said they usually buy their vapes themselves, most commonly from a corner shop (26%)
And this is where another problem lies, which could be a huge cause of these numbers increasing, and that is the blatant disregard of age verification processes that should be taking place when selling age-restricted products.
As I mentioned at the top of this article, Disposable Vapes are being sold in every shop you walk in, and not just vape shops. There’s been countless amounts of news reports highlighting Trading Standards Agencies carrying out raids on shops like convenience stores, discount stores and mobile phone repair shops who are blatantly selling Disposable Vapes that are not TPD compliant that feature a higher nicotine strengths, or more than 2ml of vape juice and they’re also freely selling them to youths who are not of legal smoking age, making no effort to check ID’s and follow the process of Challenge 25 policies.
Despite the stringent rules and policies on the advertisement of Vaping products, there are still some promotions and advertisements done which is what young people are seeing. Within the survey, youths admitted that they are most aware of vape promotion in shops which is also where exposure has grown most rapidly, up from 37% last year to 53% in 2023.
Other sources of promotion are also up but less so, including online from 24% last year to 32% this year. Despite the efforts of the creators of Social Media platforms, there are still promotions that make it onto there and slip through the net, which is ultimately being seen by millions worldwide, especially youths who predominantly make up a large majority of users on these platforms.
But personally, I feel none of these are to fully blame for this rise, and there’s something glaringly obvious which is causing the problems….can you guess what it is?
Yep, you guessed right! It really does seem that Disposable Vapes are the main root of these problems which are relating to the youth vaping numbers.
According to the surveys, the growth in vaping is due to the increasing popularity of cheap, easy to use and attractively branded single use disposable vapes. In 2021 current youth vapers were least likely to vape disposables (7.7%), but in 2022 they became the most used, with a meteoric rise to 52% and then has risen even further to to 69% in 2023.
Elf Bar remains the most popular brand, used by twice as many as the nearest competitor Lost Mary (25%) which is made by the same company as Elf Bar, followed by Elux, Geek Bar and Crystal Bars.
I don’t know about you, but to me, it certainly looks like Disposables appear to be the root of these problems, with them so freely available in every shop you go in, and the blatant disregard of rules and regulations by selling Disposables to underage users as well as selling Vapes that also disregard the TPD regulations by having 50mg nicotine strength or well over 2ml of vape juice inside them.
To conclude, I really do feel more needs to be done when it comes to clamping down on these Disposables. Whilst there is some positive movement taking place, such as funding being injected into Trading Standards Agencies from the Government to clamp down on these shops flouting the rules and restrictions being introduced on advertisements on social media, there still is plenty that could be done and hopefully it won’t be too far away before we see more happening.
Is banning Disposables the answer? I think it could be for sure. There’s so much more out there now on the market which is more beneficial to use than using Disposable Vapes. Such as our 10ml range of Nicotine salt vape liquids which are inspired by the flavours of Disposable Vapes.
Available in 10ml bottles, these are a much more cost effective and environmentally friendly way to enjoy the flavours seen in Disposables, and we take age verification very seriously, with all customers having to pass an age verification check prior to the completion of sale.