"Young people are choosing vapes - smoking is disappearing"

Disposable guns have become a fad, especially among young people. At the same time, smoking is declining sharply in the same group.
"We need to keep a cool head when it comes to disposable models. This is what happens when cigarettes as a product disappear from the market." says Clive Bates, international sustainability and harm reduction consultant.

Vejpkollen reports from the E-cigarette Summit 2022 in London. Updated May 2023.

Reporter: Stefan Mathisson

Disposable models, disposables. You can't walk many metres on a street today without passing a shop selling them. E-cigarettes with high nicotine content and low power that work for a day or two before they have to be thrown away. Simple, enticing and yes, quite tasty. Disposable vapes represent the latest expression of the disruptive technology that for a decade has challenged cigarettes as the cool and hip way to consume nicotine.

"These are very competitive and convenient products that are flooding the market. Together with the more advanced models, they are displacing cigarettes. Soon we will probably not see so many smokers under 25. So even if it's messy and creates a lot of anxiety, this is not causing much harm. Quite the contrary," says Clive Bates when Vejpkollen meets him during E-cigarette summit London, 2022.

Sharp increase among young people

The proportion of young people who vape has so far been relatively small. But in recent years, since single-use models entered the market, the share has increased significantly. This applies to the UK, Sweden and the rest of Europe.
"We see two clear patterns here." says Clive Bates. "On the one hand, we see sporadic use. It's about young people puffing at parties, spexing, blowing rings and so on. It's a fairly large group, with typical teenage behaviour that will disappear when they get older."

Smoking is being squeezed out

According to Clive Bates we should not worry too much about the occasional party favour. Instead, we should focus on regular use. That's where things happen that have real health consequences," he says.
'Here we have the group of young people who, for various reasons, either psychological, recreational or more hedonistic reasons, like to use nicotine. This is the group where the proportion of smokers has traditionally been high. Here, vaping is replacing cigarette smoking. And this is very important for the future, especially for health," he says.

Authorities encourage road construction

In the United Kingdom encourages the authorities actively encouraged the country's 6.6 million smokers to either quit completely or switch to e-cigarettes, a much less dangerous way to consume nicotine. Since 2011, the proportion of smokers in the country has decreased from 20 per cent to 14 per cent. There are currently 4 million road users in the UK and according to the Department of Health's latest report e-cigarettes have played a major role in reducing smoking rates.

'Smoking is disappearing one generation at a time. We don't see many smokers under 25 today. That generation will give up or switch from smoking to e-cigarettes before they turn 35. Very few people under 30 today will die from a smoking-related disease." says Clive Bates.

Harder for older people to switch

But it will take longer for the older generations, he fears. Knowledge of the relative risks between smoking and vaping nicotine is very low, particularly in the case of among older smokers.

"For someone who has smoked for several decades, and is a little more technophobic, it is more difficult to switch to e-cigarettes, of course. But if we from all sides, authorities, media and health organisations join forces and highlight the value of harm reduction, the transition would be quicker as well," he says. Clive Bates.

"Inevitable regardless of resistance"

According to Clive Bates ultimately, it does not matter how strong the opposition to e-cigarettes and other safer nicotine products is. Whether disposable or otherwise, market developments will force a change in legislation and attitudes in general.

"We see a technological disruption that is both attractive and more logical than cigarettes. People want to use nicotine, but they don't want the cancer, cardiovascular disease and everything else that smoking brings. They opt out of cigarettes in favour of something better, just as they opt out of fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy sources. It is the consumers who choose and the companies who adapt. No one can stop this development in the long run, but we can facilitate it and make sure it happens faster than today."

Western countries have great responsibility

Clive Bates believes that the countries of Europe and the US have a great responsibility.
"If we can regulate these products properly and make them as safe as possible, we can lead the way. Developments in other countries like China and India will follow suit. It is inevitable," says Clive Bates to Vejpkollen.

In March 2023, the UK government announced that it was investing in 3 million pounds to curb the sale of disposable models to minors. At the same time, it is aiming to distribute free e-cigarettes to one million British smokers - with the goal of reducing smoking in the UK.

Watch Vejpkollen's full interview with Clive Bates at the E-cigarette Summit here:

Sources in this article: Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2021

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