The UK government is banning the sale and purchase of disposable Vapes to minors in England, Scotland, and Wales this year. As per the latest UK government notification, no minor under the age of 18 shall be able to buy disposable vape in the UK.
The ban comes amid shocking statistics highlighted by the UK government, which has noticed a 300% rise in the use of disposal vapes among teenagers in the past three years. The research also suggests that Vaping can help adults quit smoking; but should never be taken up by non-smokers, since e-cigarettes are better alternatives to conventional cigarettes, but are still harmful for non-smokers.
In this article, we will discuss the issue of vaping among young teenagers and the need for stringent regulations to ban smoking.
E-cigarettes are more popular among youth:
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that teenagers are not fascinated by combustible cigarettes. The number of combustible cigarette users has declined from 70% in 1991 to 28.9% in 2017. The numbers are a relief considering the physical and psychological damages of smoking.
But a newer trend is emerging among the youth- E-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are battery-operated electronic inhaling devices, which deliver aerosol by heating a liquid. Users inhale this aerosol, commonly referred to as “vapour,” which mimics the feeling of smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Vapes come in a variety of sizes (small pod vapes to even four battery-powered vapes), designs (shaped as cigars, pens, conventional cigarettes, and even USB drives), and flavors (including mango, mint, donut, custard, and strawberry flavors among others) and hence are more appealing to younger users.
The issue of vaping among young teens is becoming a growing concern around the globe. In 2011, there were 7 million e-cigarette users, which multiplied from 68 million in 2020 to 82 million in 2021. In merely a decade, 75 million people started vaping. This significant rise in the numbers also led to a phenomenon called an epidemic of e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) because there were more than 2800 people hospitalized due to vaping in 2020.
However, after the global pandemic, EVALI has not gained much attention; the issue is still prevalent, more than ever.
In 2021, only 7.7% of the teenagers between the age of 11 and 17 used e-cigarettes. However, in just two years, 61.3% of new users started vaping, increasing the total percentage of e-cigarette users in 2023 to 69%. Other statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 5.6 million young people will die prematurely due to vaping.
Amid the rising number of vape users and uncertainty over the long-term implications of nicotine, it becomes imperative to streamline the use of vapes for adults and ban vaping for the young generation altogether.
The reasons for increasing vaping among youth:
According to the Recovery Center of Niagara survey, over 70% of Grade 8, 9, and 11 participants said they started vaping to make friends. It’s concerning and saddening to see young teenagers risking their health and adopting smoking just to fit in and be accepted by their peers. 30% of the students stated they vaped because they could find it in flavors they liked.
Countries are coming forward to ban e-cigarettes:
Although the issue of smoking is a global issue, the use of e-cigarettes is more prevalent in Western nations including Greece (35%), Russia (19%), New Zealand (12.5%), Australia (11%), Italy (7.8%), and the UK (7.1%) (2020). Europe is the largest vape market with a 50% market share, while North America has more than 45% of the Vape market share globally.
In light of these statistics, some nations like the UK and Australia are determined to change these numbers. Australia has banned the import of all single-use vapes, with and without Vapes, from 1st January 2024.
The government went a step further to impose a more serious ban. This included importing all vapes, including single-use and rechargeable vapes into Australia without import license. Now the govt plans to limit the use of vapes for therapeutic and medicinal purposes only, which will also be available after due permission from the government.
The same efforts are put forward by the UK, which makes it completely illegal for minors to purchase and possess e-cigarettes. Ireland might also follow the same lead going forward.
New Zealand has put forth the world’s first regulation that prevents the future generation from smoking. As per the law passed in 2022, no one born after 2008 will ever be able to buy cigarettes or any tobacco-related products in their lives. The law is intended to make a smoke-free generation, which is indeed the type of law our world needs at the moment.
In the United States of America, the legal age to sell and purchase any tobacco-related product has been increased from 18 years to 21 years to prohibit younger people from smoking. In India also, it is illegal to buy, sell, or possess e-cigarettes or similar devices under the Electronic Cigarette Act (PECA) 2019 but is still easily procurable through online/offline platforms.
Are mere bans effective?
In India, where 96% of 14-17-year-olds are not aware of vaping, vaping products are still easily available and accessible despite the complete ban. This, when compared to nations that have a higher number of vape users, the conditions are even worse.
Despite banning selling of e-cigarettes to minors in the UK, 9% of 11-15-year-olds use vapes and nearly half a million vapes being sold in the UK were found unfit for consumption, citing more than prescribed levels of nicotine.
The same is condition in other nations, such as America, where the bans on fruity flavors have been incapable of controlling the influx of illegal vapes into the nation.
As per the report of The Associated Press, the number of vape devices sold in America has tripled since 2020. The research has also brought forward that partial bans are less effective in controlling the use of e-cigarettes than complete bans.
So, it is evident from the data that mere bans and partial bans on e-cigarettes is not an effective solution. The policymakers should tackle the problem at the root. Teenagers should be encouraged to foster genuine relationships, rather than bonding over toxic habits such as Vaping.
Controlling merely the sale wouldn’t also be an effective solution; rather businesses should not be allowed to manufacture and import such items. Although nations are also implementing measures to control such illicit imports, we need to do more.
Since most of the cigarettes are manufactured by the Public Republic of China, cooperation from Chinese authorities is also vital.
Although the younger generation is maintaining distance from conventional cigarettes, their relationship with e-cigarettes is equally toxic. It is also disheartening to witness many teenagers turning to vaping as their primary means of socializing. Apart from banning the sale of vapes, we should focus on cultivating healthier relationships with our youth. We can help young people avoid feeling compelled to vape to build relationships.