Thursday 30 March 2023

Public Elf

It seems there will some kind of public consultation about disposable vapes. The media are reporting that they could be banned. Or perhaps flavours will be restricted. Or something else. We shall have to see. In the meantime, I've written about the Elf Bar craze for Spiked.

On the face of it, the scale of underage vaping does not seem too alarming. The most recent figures are from 2021 and they show that the proportion of secondary-school pupils who have ever tried an e-cigarette was 22 per cent. This is no higher than it was in 2014, although the proportion who said they were regular vapers rose from four per cent to nine per cent in the same period. Of these regular vapers, only one per cent had never smoked a cigarette. In other words, only 0.09 per cent of secondary-school children regularly vape and have never smoked.

As for smoking, it has virtually disappeared among people under the age of 16. Since vaping became popular in 2012, the proportion of regular smokers aged between 11 and 15 has dropped from four per cent to just one per cent. Fears of a ‘gateway effect’ leading teenagers who try vaping to move on to smoking have been shown to be unfounded. Why would anyone switch from e-cigarettes to a product that is much more expensive and vastly more dangerous? A more reasonable assumption is that a lot of teenagers who would have smoked are vaping instead. 

That has clearly happened in the US, which had its own panic about teen vaping a few years ago. High-school kids took up Juul, an e-cigarette that was simultaneously described as looking like a USB stick and being sexy. Vaping rates among US teenagers are relatively high, but smoking rates are almost certainly much lower than they would have been, as the graph below shows. Unless you want to make the perfect the enemy of the good, this seems like a public-health win.


Do read it all.

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