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Vapes: Safe Substitutes or Harmful Habits?

TALA LADKI examines the ciggy substitute trend and asks whether it is time to escape the vape.




They’re small. They’re colourful. They’re trendy. And most importantly, the aftertaste is sweet. We're talking about Gen Z’s latest addiction, vapes! 


According to a 2022 BBC article, there are 4.5+ million regular vapers in the United Kingdom – so why is vaping so popular?


Alternatives to cigarettes have been on the rise for the past few years, especially as the UK government moves to ban smoking. You’d think it all started with the awareness of the dangers of regular tobacco, but e-cigarettes have been around for several decades, though not popular. In recent years, and due to the highly addictive nature of nicotine, a lot of smokers have been seeking alternatives, from Philip Morris’ IQOS to today’s more prevalent forms of flavored vapes.


As a matter of fact, IQOS was the UK’s number one smoking alternative in 2020. The smoking alternatives scene has changed since then, turning the vaping industry into a $20 billion dollar one, according to the BBC, and making it the UK’s most popular smoking trend.


While vapes are banned or not heavily advertised in many other countries, the story is different in the UK. In an attempt to limit, lower and overall ban smoking, vapes are advertised as a “better” alternative.

 

Better Than Smoking?

A lot of the buzz around vapes involves the belief that it’s better than smoking regular cigarettes. According to the NHS, nicotine vapes are not risk-free but are less likely to cause the health risks associated with cigarettes.


A lot of people turn to vapes as a means to cut down on regular cigarettes. According to a study by Action on Smoking Health, around 31% of ex-smokers started on vapes to quit smoking.

 

Accessibility and Advertisement

While not necessarily a great thing, vapes are accessible. With over 2,000 stores in the UK selling vapes for as little as three pounds, they have become a lucrative alternative to cigarettes, especially as the price of the latter continues to rise.


Not only so, but vapes are heavily advertised on store fronts, buses and even on social media. A lot of online influencers and bloggers have been seen vaping, further increasing people’s exposure to it, especially teens and young adults.


According to a 2022 Guardian article, a lot of influencers use Tiktok as a means to advertise vapes, attracting a younger audience than the legal age of purchase.

 

Social Life

Just like “social smoking” became a fad for many people who would only smoke cigarettes when out with friends or having a drink, “social vaping” is now the trend. For some people, vaping is a habit practiced among friends. For others, this habit has already developed, or has a tendency, into an addiction.


People are seen vaping in pubs, clubs, cars and outdoors – there's little to no regulation on vapor indoors.



 

Smell

Have you ever smelled a full ashtray? It's enough to make you barf! The horrid smell of cigarettes lingers on fingers and even on the breath for hours. It takes a series of mouthwash and gum and many other trials and errors to remove it, and it doesn’t really go, does it?


The case is different with vape, as vapes usually smell and taste good – mostly sugary flavors like fruits or bubblegum. Vapes have also been likened to “mini shishas.”

The fact that they’re ‘candy-like’ is very lucrative for many, especially teens and young adults who turn to vapes just to try it or for social reasons.

 

Final Thoughts

While the UK government is trying hard to limit or ban the smoking of cigarettes, especially among the new generation, replacing one habit with another may also be a harmful tactic. So far, there are not enough studies conducted on the harmful side effects of vapes, but that doesn’t eliminate its dangerous nature, especially for the youth.

Some studies conclude that vaping may be just as addictive as smoking cigarettes due to nicotine traces and may cause damage to the lungs. What about nicotine-free vapes? Unfortunately, the majority of vapes in the market include nicotine, and nicotine-free vapes are not as widely advertised.


This is aside from the effects it may have on developing youth, such as its effects on concentration, memory and brain development. Other hazards include dry coughs or wheezing, insomnia, mood changes.


Is all of that worth a few puffs of mango-flavored vapor?



Written by Tala Ladki




References

 

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