Trend Alert | Disposable Vapes

Izzy Hall

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest trends that are impacting the daily lives of 16-24s.

Gen Z are often labelled ‘Generation Sensible’ because research has shown they’re less likely to drink or smoke than previous generations of young people. However, this assessment assumes that Gen Z were only ever going to rebel in the same ways as older generations, which of course isn’t true. After all, what’s cool or subversive about doing the same things your parents did when they were your age?

One trend that demonstrates this is the popularity of vaping among young people. As a health-conscious group, smoking traditional cigarettes has lost much of its appeal, but vaping, positioned as the healthier alternative, gives them the chance to rebel, to relax, and to have a new trend all of their own. Vaping has been associated with the younger generation for several years, especially amid controversy around the marketing of brands such as Juul (now banned in the US) to young people. However, it’s since disposable vapes have become more widely available that vape usage has really skyrocketed.

A UK study found that 57% of 18-year-olds were using disposable vapes as of January 2022, compared to just 1% a year earlier – a staggering increase within that timeframe. Online e-cigarette retailer IndeJuice reported at the end of 2021 that they had seen 279% increase in sales of disposable vapes, and noted that Geek Bar and Elf Bar are among the most popular brands. They are particularly prominent on TikTok, where videos tagged #elfbar have almost a billion views, and #geekbar nearly 300 million, despite neither brand having an official account on the platform – it’s viral marketing any brand would dream of.

The vaping trend is a difficult one to contend with for those concerned about the health of young people. On one hand, e-cigarettes do “carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes” according to the NHS, because they don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements of tobacco smoke. So, if those who are vaping would otherwise have been smoking cigarettes, this is a win. However, the percentage of teenagers who vape is now so high that it’s likely a large portion of them would not have been smoking cigarettes if they weren’t vaping. What has been an effective way of reducing cigarette usage among older people could essentially result in the next generation consuming as much or more nicotine than their elders.

Another concern regarding disposable vapes is their impact on the environment. This reflects a topic we’ll delve into in our upcoming Voxburner+ report, Gen Z or Generation Green, where we’ll be looking at the conflict they feel between their ethics (particularly in relation to the environment) and their consumer desires. While sustainability certainly is important to Gen Z, if they want to vape and the disposable product is cheaper and more stylish, it’s unrealistic to expect them to reject this option.

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