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Inside the world of Disposable Vapes

18 May 2021 | 4:52 pm | Parry Tritsiniotis

Disposable vapes are highly accessible, highly addictive and designed for one time use. So what actually are they? Why are they so popular?

If you’ve been out in a capital city recently you’ve probably noticed the copious amounts of disposable vapes going around. They’re highly accessible, highly addictive and designed for one time use. Despite being technically illegal for individuals to sell or purchase e-liquids that contain nicotine in any form within Australia they’re omnipresent in our society. So what actually are they? Why are they so popular? Are they really so bad for you? Here’s the tea. 

What are disposable vapes?

Disposable vapes are nicotine infused aerosols. Popular brands include HQD, iGET, Puff Bars, sold in various sizes for the amount of “puffs” you get. A 600 puff iGET it will set you back $15-$25, 1200 puff HQD can be sold anywhere from $20-$35. They come in ample amounts of various sweet flavours, think watermelon strawberry, lychee ice, cola ice and are coloured accordingly. They’re fruity accessories jacked with some pretty dire ingredients. Within a vape is a battery, a coil and a e-liquid. While I’m calling them “vapes” and smoking an e-cigarette is often referred to as vaping, the devices produce an aerosol, not a vapor. The aerosol from an e-cigarette contains tiny chemical particles from both the liquid solution and the device, so think pieces of the metal from the heating coil or remnants of battery juices entering the users lungs. These particles are obviously quite dangerous for the human body, and this is where the negative effects on resting heart rate and lung capacity come in. 

Take a look at this video deconstructing two of the most popular vapes

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Why are they so popular?

There are many factors that make disposable vapes so popular. They’re easily accessible, they’re significantly cheaper than cigarettes, you can smoke them anywhere and to be fair, lot’s of them taste great. They’re also sold under the counter, meaning they’re tax free, so nicotine per dollar they’re significantly cheaper. Despite their clear negative side effects they do remain so popular, and only in the past few months of their existence has there been a cultural shift into reconsidering use of them. The main reason they’re so popular is because of how extremely addictive they are. The majority of the popular devices contain 5mg of nicotine per ml. A typical juul pod contains 0.7ML of e-liquid, and at 5% concentration of nicotine, this is about a packet of cigarettes per juul pod. A typical 600 puff iget contains 2.4 ML of e-liquid at the same nicotine concentration level. It’s grim maths to do, and it’s hard to properly say what is actually in these things given their production, but that’s an advertised 3 packets of cigarettes in one of the smallest vapes on the market. Even though general sentiment is changing on the product, the fact that they are so accessible, so cheap relative to cigarettes and so ridiculously jacked with nicotine makes them so incredibly difficult to quit, making them excessively popular. 

How bad are they for you?

Research into the health effects of vaping is ongoing, and it may take some time before we understand the long-term risks, however early evidence is not looking positive. A research study undertaken by Darville & Hahn found that vape aerosols are likely to significantly affect the heart and circulatory system. They immediately trigger an increase in resting heart rate and also blood pressure when inhaled. The report also found the cigarette smokers and vapers were exposed to similar risks in exposure to heart disease. The authors of a 2018 study concluded that daily vaping is associated with an increased risk of heart attack. Currently vaping effects on lung capacity and functionality is limited, as lung health effects are not expected to be seen for 30 years.

Environmental Impact

Disposable vapes are shocking for the environment. They contribute to waste in three forms, hazard waste, hard plastic waste and electronic waste. Vapes by design are a combination of the worst things for the environment. Hard plastic does not biodegrade, taking potentially up to hundreds of years to decompose. Throw on top of this toxic waste via the heavy metals within the coil and battery, and the lithium ion elements within the battery, you have an environmental disaster. While no preliminary research has been conducted onto the sheer amounts of vape waste is created, even considering the amount of hard plastic that's thrown out via Vapes on King St on a single night out, it's a horribly scary thought.