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OPINION - Teenagers’ vapes are a scented menace: ban them

Brightly coloured vapes come in toy-like packaging (Irina Kashparenko/Alamy/PA)
Brightly coloured vapes come in toy-like packaging (Irina Kashparenko/Alamy/PA)

How on earth did vaping become the hottest new accessory for Gen Z? They’re quite literally everywhere. Buses, Tubes, dance floors, offices, pubs — name any public space, and chances are a cloud of sickeningly sweet smoke has assaulted your nose, followed by a nauseating flash of a cartoonishly colourful vape that’s practically glued to the smoker’s mouth.

I don’t understand it. Although vapes were introduced as an alternative to cigarettes, most of these kids didn’t smoke to begin with. Plus they’re not even that safe. In 2019, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that almost 400 serious lung illnesses and six deaths were linked to vaping.

So why is my TikTok For You page filled with 16-year-olds showing their Lost Mary vape haul, or every playground I walk past billowing with strawberry-enriched fumes?

It’s especially worrying considering the recent findings that five million single-use vapes are being thrown away in the UK every week, discarding enough lithium in the process to create 5,000 electric car batteries a year.

For a generation so concerned about the environment, I’m shocked that the number of teens who have tried vaping has risen 50 per cent this year, according to charity Action on Smoking and Health’s research. Perhaps it’s a result of the synthetic banana milkshake flavoured nicotine-addled air they offer. Or toy-like packaging that’s like catnip to a TikTok obsessed generation.

God forbid that some people actually think it looks cool. It looks like you’re puffing on a neon highlighter

God forbid that some people actually think it looks cool. I mean, it looks like you’re puffing on a neon highlighter. One person I know even refers to vapes as robot penises. Count me out.

Or, maybe as Netflix’s latest documentary Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul uncovered, these companies have been actively marketing products to children to hook them into a lifetime of nicotine addiction. It’s criminal really, and boy can I smell the effects wherever I go.

Thank goodness, ministers are set to ban single-use vapes in the coming months, and documentaries like the Big Vape are being released to debunk this freakish trend. Let’s hope it’s something we’ll look back on in 10 years the same way we do at heeled trainers now.

Amy Francombe is an Evening Standard writer