Available in lots of high-street shops, and with a range of flavoured smoke to choose from, disposable vapes are growing in popularity in the UK – but are disposable vapes dangerous for our health?
First believed to be healthier than smoking cigarettes, new studies have now emerged detailing the health effects associated with vaping, which show that it could be just as dangerous. Here, we explore everything you need to know about the dangers of e-cigarettes as well as nicotine addiction and withdrawal.
What Are Disposable Vapes?
Disposable vapes are handheld, pen-shaped devices that are pre-filled and come in a variety of menthol and nonmenthol flavours. While some vapes can be recharged or refilled, disposable vapes are designed to be thrown away once the pen is empty, which is usually after around 550 puffs.
Similar in size to a pen, disposable vapes contain a battery, heating element and cartridge, which is filled with liquid nicotine and flavourings. When an individual inhales the vape, the heating element works to vaporise the liquid nicotine, producing a vapour cloud that is then breathed in.
Over the past couple of years, vaping has grown in popularity in the UK. Since 2021, the amount of people in the UK currently vaping is higher than the number of smokers. What’s more, increasingly, the younger generation is vaping, with 15% of 11- to 15-year-olds admitting they have tried vaping, compared to 34% of 16 to 17-year-olds and 38% of 18-year-olds.
The same study found that one of the biggest reasons for vaping is because individuals ‘just want to give it a try’ closely followed by ‘other people do it, so I join in.’
Health Risks of Disposable Vapes
The biggest risk of using disposable vapes is the potential that they could contain harmful chemicals, which could impact overall health in the long run. Lots of disposable vapes contain e-liquid, which combines nicotine, flavourings, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine. While studies don’t yet know the long-term effects of these combined chemicals, there is research which details the individual impact that each ingredient can have. For example, propylene glycol can irritate the respiratory tract and can cause serious allergic reactions.
What’s more, the legal limit in the UK is 20mg of nicotine for vapes, but some have been found to include up to 50mg of nicotine. Nicotine, which is found in tobacco products, can have a serious impact all over the body, too, leading to dizziness, difficulty breathing, difficulty sleeping, high blood pressure, headaches, increased risk of blood clotting and changes in blood flow.
Nicotine is also the main psychoactive and addictive substance in tobacco products which means there is a risk that individuals who smoke nicotine regularly, and indeed vape, can become addicted. While nicotine doesn’t directly cause cancer, tobacco does contain at least 69 carcinogenic chemicals, which can cause cancer which is another risk associated with vaping.
Disposable Vape Addiction and Dependency
As disposable vapes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance, there is the risk that regular users of such vapes could develop an addiction. When an individual inhales nicotine, a rush of endorphins is released in the reward circuit of the brain. While this rush is much lower compared to other drugs, it does increase the levels of dopamine, which is also known as the brain’s feel-good chemical.
Repeated exposure to nicotine alters the way the brain functions and tricks it into thinking that the body needs more nicotine to feel the same level of pleasure and reward. Over time, the brain and body require more nicotine and higher levels of it in order to get the same desired feelings which are known as tolerance and dependence. Without it, withdrawal symptoms and cravings can occur, which can range in severity but make it very difficult for an individual to quit smoking or vaping.
Nicotine isn’t just addictive; however, it can also increase an individual’s risk of developing gum disease, tooth decay and dry mouth.
Respiratory Health Concerns of Vapes
As mentioned, the long-term effects of vaping aren’t yet known, but studies have already highlighted a number of short-term effects on overall health. This includes throat and nose bleeds. What’s more, experts have warned that disposable vapes can contain harmful chemicals known to irritate the respiratory tract. This can lead to coughing, difficulty breathing and wheezing.
Some doctors have also warned of the risk of inflamed airways from using unregulated vaping devices, which can lead to serious health conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Impact of Disposable Vapes on Teenagers
One of the most concerning factors of vaping is the impact of vaping on youth and the increase in teenage vaping. Social media commonly showcases videos of young people vaping, and brands are now releasing flavours that might appeal to the younger generation, such as cotton candy and bubblegum.
Vape devices are available in various bright colours and don’t require any experience or knowledge to activate them. This makes them more likely to be appealing to those who haven’t smoked and might not be aware of the dangers of disposable vapes. What’s more, as mentioned above, one of the most common reasons for people vaping is because they witnessed someone else do it, which further highlights the risk of children vaping as they seek to become part of a crowd.
One study even found that half of all children are now aware of vape promotions in shops and online. Alarmingly, 2.1% of children who have tried vaping say that their first vape was given out free by a company. While selling vapes to children is illegal, handing them out free is not, which presents a huge risk for underage vaping and, indeed, addiction to disposable vapes.
If you have any questions about the information above or perhaps want some more advice on quitting vaping, either for yourself or someone you know, you should consult your GP. Alternatively, the team at Cassiobury Court can offer some guidance and support and direct you to appropriate advice.