Vaping is heralded as the ‘healthier’ alternative to smoking, but what’s the truth behind the soaring trend that has gen-Z hooked?
If you’ve been outside (or on social media) lately, you’ve likely noticed the increase in vaping. At least, I know I have. As a uni student in 2022, I am often guilty of succumbing to picking up a vape at the off licence when stocking up on my weekly booze. Their bright colours and sweet smells are now a signature part of a night out.
Like many gen-Zers, I’ve tried smoking but the ashy, burnt taste was not for me, and the thought of smoke swirling around my lungs? No thanks. But vapes – the Elf Bars brand specifically – are damn tasty. I now often find myself pairing the colour of my vape to my outfit as a fashion accessory for a trip to the pub. I also find myself shotting cheap tequila with no lime and salt, and using a vape as a sweet chaser. I have let this tasty, portable – and, let’s face it, quite nice-looking – companion into my life with no questions asked. It’s like a one-night-stand that I’ve let turn into a clingy relationship, with me 24/7.
So, when I started reading horror stories online and people on TikTok with blatant vape addictions, I started to get a little concerned; I wanted to dig a bit deeper.
Vaping is a growing phenomenon with more and more people making the switch to e-cigarettes in a bid to ditch tobacco cigarettes. Not only do they taste better, but they’re considerably cheaper, too. Prices for vapes are as low as £4, whereas a pack of 20 Marlboro Gold are currently priced at £12.55 at Tesco. Then there’s the A-list seal of approval, too, with celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss and Lady Gaga having all been spotted vaping.
It’s no wonder that Elf Bars have been plastered all over social media platforms in a variety of flavours and colours. The hashtag #elfbar currently has 697 million views on TikTok, while #vaping has 1.6 billion views.
In the UK, from January 2021 to January 2022, there was a 14-fold increase in the percentage of vapers that used disposables, which was most pronounced in younger adults: the use of disposable vapes in 18-year-old vapers rose from 0.89% to a staggering 56.7%, whilst among 45-year-old vapers the use of disposables rose from 1.3% to 6.2%.
While smoking tobacco was popular for Gen-Z’s parents’ generation – it wasn’t until 1964 that a definitive report was published linking smoking to lung cancer – reports have shown that the recent increases in vaping have been directly associated with declining rates of youth smoking. It looks as though we’re replacing smoking with vaping. And with one TikTok from Dr Onkar Mudhar claiming that smoking just one Elf Bar – which some uni students are getting through in a single night out – is the equivalent of “about 48 to 50 cigarettes” (as the bar contains two milligrams of nicotine salt which is equivalent to 20 milligrams of nicotine), are we replacing smoking with something possibly even more dangerous?
“The hot vapour and nicotine from a vape can be harmful to your oral health,” says Amanda Sheehan, a dental hygienist, and clinical support specialist at TePe. “Nicotine whether smoked or vaped, reduces blood flow to the gums, increasing the risks of gum disease and tooth loss.”
“It goes without saying that smoking is bad for your health, but something that is less commonly spoken about – or understood – is the impact that vaping has on oral health,” says Amanda Sheehan, a dental hygienist, and clinical support specialist at TePe. “The hot vapour and nicotine from a vape can be harmful to your oral health because nicotine – whether smoked or vaped – reduces blood flow to the gums, increasing the risks of gum disease and tooth loss. So, vaping puts you at a higher risk of developing gum disease than if you don’t vape at all.