There is a complete disconnect between the attitudes toward smoking and vaping in young people. I believe that older people see it as a great alternative to smoking or an aid to help give them up. Most people using them as an aid to giving up nicotine just stay on the same level of nicotine as cigarettes. They don’t realise that they have to slowly reduce nicotine concentration to eventually wean off it altogether. In some cases, they vape more than they were smoking in the first place or use a combination of both.
However, with younger people, I feel like young people are buying the various fruity flavours because they like the taste and do not comprehend that it’s still nicotine and therefore akin to smoking.
I feel like the disposable vapes are also seen as nearly a collector’s item as they come in loads of different colours and I have seen TikToks of teenagers showing off their ‘collection’ of colours.
Easy access to vaping
Vaping is more accessible to young people than traditional tobacco and you definitely see a lot more ‘non-smokers’ using vapes regularly, as opposed to social smokers who smoked when they drank.
For example, my little sister isn’t a smoker but would smoke when she was drinking, but has since taken up disposable vapes and used it daily. She wouldn’t associate that with smoking, so vaping is definitely more acceptable to her than being a full-time smoker.
You also see young people making their own vape juice flavours at home, which is dangerous. If someone told me they had grown their own form of tobacco leaves at home and were selling it for a cheap price, I would literally run a mile. Yet people seem to have no problem inhaling random chemicals created in a random person’s kitchen?
Most standard vape pods are the equivalent to one 20-pack of cigarettes. If I told someone when I was a smoker that I smoked a full box every single day, I would be considered a heavy smoker that had a serious nicotine use problem. Yet you’re seeing “non-smokers” go through a vape pod once a day and no remarks are made? Why? Because there’s little to no association between vaping and smoking in young people.
A lot of young people that are taking up vaping now didn’t grow up in an Ireland that allowed smoking indoors or else they don’t remember. When vapes were first introduced there were very few flavours available on the market and they were marketed as a smoke-free alternative.
As the years have gone on and the industry has evolved, vapes have become an accessory on a night out or an instrument to do cool ‘vape tricks’ with. Competitive Vaping is now, unfortunately, a real thing.
I think it’s becoming more of a trend with young girls because of the fruity flavours available now and an increase in people who wouldn’t have smoked because of the taste or smell of tobacco now having an alternative.
I also think there’s an increase in young vape users in the hospitality industry. It is easier to hide somewhere and take a few quick drags of a fruity vape and get back to work unnoticed than going out for a smoke break. I also think the price increase of tobacco probably had an impact on young people taking up vaping because you can buy cheap vapes for next to nothing, whereas you could be paying nearly €15 for a box of cigarettes or €20 for a pouch of tobacco.
I really think age restrictions for vape products should be increased to at least 25 or fully banned like the menthol cigarettes were. That’s why I gave it up in the end. I didn’t like the taste of regular cigarettes and tried a vape for a while, but felt like I was swallowing razor blades all the time because I realised I was using it more than I ever smoked.
Vaping seen to be ‘healthier’
I do think vaping is seen as healthier than smoking as I feel like a lot of young people, especially those who weren’t smokers beforehand, don’t even associate vaping with smoking.
I don’t think young people realise that when you vape you’re potentially doing more damage than just smoking tobacco. To put this into context, if a smoker comes over to my house, they will have to smoke outside. A lone smoker is less inclined to go outside for a smoke on their own, especially if the weather is bad and there isn’t adequate shelter, whereas a vaper can use it inside as much as they want.
Anytime I have been socialising with vapers, it’s been a near-permanent fixture in their mouths the entire time. Although it’s either illegal or up to the premises’ discretion to allow or ban vaping, it’s still easy to take a sneaky drag undetected. So I feel that sheer quantity-wise, vapers are doing more damage as they’re probably inhaling way more nicotine and pollutants than a normal smoker.
People don’t realise that you inhale a higher concentration of nicotine much quicker using a vape than using a traditional cigarette. When I was a smoker, there were only so many cigarettes I could smoke one after another without feeling ill. When that cigarette ends, you have to take out another one so you’re able to quantify how many you’re consuming, but you don’t get that with vapes.
It’s also more socially acceptable for young people to use a vape than to smoke because of the smell. A cotton candy aroma is more attractive than a tobacco one. Also, I think there aren’t as many warnings for vapes in media as there are for tobacco. I think that’s where the disconnect comes from. We’re all traumatised over the pictures on the cigarette boxes of people’s mouths rotting away or black tar-clogged lungs versus healthy pink ones (my Dad’s personal favourite) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one related to vaping?
It’s also important to note that e-cigarettes are ‘subtly’ marketed toward teenagers. One popular brand’s ad campaign originally had bright, colourful ads with attractive young models vaping. They had huge billboards in Times Square with this imagery and a successful social media campaign that created the personality of a fun, popular, attractive user.
Developing a personality when launching a brand is fundamental for its success. It sets out who is the ideal target audience wanted for a brand but often translates to consumers as this is the type of person you become when you use this brand. So by using young, attractive models shown at parties kissing other attractive models, a distinct message is being sent to young people: use this product, and this could be you.
These companies are buying product placements in popular artists’ music videos reaching billions of people, and I know from my own experience with music festivals, that there are often pop-up stands/shops selling or promoting vapes.
If you look at the hardware design of some of the most popular vapes, they are small, sleek, and look like a USB flash drive. I refuse to believe that it is a coincidence that they are small enough to fit into small handbags, back pockets or pencil cases, even, but they’re not being marketed toward teens.
The regulation for advertising e-cigarettes is not up to scratch at all and, in my opinion, it’s detrimental to young people everywhere. They say that if you get a young person (under the age of 25ish) addicted to your product, you’ll have a user for life. It’s no coincidence that big tobacco, which also owns a large proportion of the smoke-free alternatives market, is marketing its highly addictive nicotine products to young impressionable teenagers.
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