Disposable vapes lead to 300% increase in young adults vaping

A study in The Lancet found that 29 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds in England used vapes last May, up from 9 per cent two years earlier

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Disposable vapes have caused a tripling of vaping among young adults, reversing a historic decline in nicotine use, according to a study by University College London.

The study revealed that 29 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds in England vaped in May 2023, up from 9 per cent in May 2021.

Disposable vapes shoulder the blame but…

This increase, we’re told, coincided with the introduction of cheap, brightly coloured, and fruity-flavoured single-use e-cigarettes like Elf Bars.

Yet that is to simplify the issue. Disposable vapes aren’t the real problem.

The same kind of vape products, available for the same low price but which are theoretically “reuseable”, are already on the market, and retailers of illicit vapes on the black market don’t care if they continue to supply disposables and more to the point, neither do their customers.

Smoking rates are down but nicotine user rates are up

Although smoking rates have declined, the rise in disposable vape use has led to an overall increase in nicotine consumption among young adults, many of whom would “otherwise have avoided nicotine entirely.” And this is the real scandal; there simply would never have been a nicotine-user rate anywhere near 29% amongst 18-24-year-olds today if vapes had not been introduced more than 10 years ago in a completely unregulated fashion.

The long awaited Tobacco and Vapes Bill aimed to address, amongst other things, youth vaping, looks like it has fallen by the wayside as a result of the surprise July 2024 UK general election.

Study looking at vape use

Published in The Lancet, the study analyzed data from 132,252 adults in England to track changes in smoking habits before and after disposable vapes became popular in June 2021.

Before this, smoking and vaping rates were stable or declining. The study noted, “since disposable vaping started to become popular, vaping has been increasing across all age groups—especially younger adults.”

The tripling of e-cigarette use among 18 to 24-year-olds led to an increase in overall nicotine product use from 28 per cent to 35 per cent between 2021 and 2023, despite smoking rates in this age group dropping from 25 per cent to 21 per cent.

The highest increase in vaping was among those who had never smoked, with rates rising from 2 per cent to 9 per cent in this age group.

Nicotine addiction is rising

Researchers concluded that “since disposable vapes started becoming popular in England, historic declines in nicotine use have reversed,” driven by sharp increases in vaping among young people.

They called for urgent measures such as excise taxes, packaging restrictions, and placing vapes behind shop counters to curb this trend.

Dr. Harry Tattan-Birch, the study’s lead author, expressed concern over the rapid rise in vaping without a corresponding drop in smoking rates, emphasising the need for the UK government’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill.

Dr. Sarah Jackson, a senior author, stressed that while addressing youth vaping is crucial, policies should not suggest that vaping is worse than smoking. Instead, measures should target vaping products’ appearance, packaging, and marketing.

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