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The generation of young people hooked on a pen

What was once used to rid us of a more sinister evil is now a casually prevalent vapour snack for the masses.

A new wave of pen lovers has entered the room. I’m not referring to a Biro, unfortunately. I’m talking about the torrent of vape pens gripped to adolescents’ pursed lips.

Recently, the vaping company Blu released a brief history of vaping devices, revealing a pattern in the evolution of e-cigarettes and vape pens. Previous inventors and contributors – up until Hon Lik in 2001 – were limited by a lack of technology bound to their time.

In the 80s, a computer engineer, Phil Ray, expounded on his predecessors’ hard work and delivered the phrase vaping into peoples’ living rooms. Alongside Norman Jacobsen, a physician, he took a monumental step in vaping useability.

Their discovery, a derivative of the e-cigarette, didn’t require ignition but relied on evaporation. The concept, squandered by the times they were in, was yet to start its ascension in popularity due to a lack of fashionableness demand.

In 2001, Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist credited for inventing the modern vape, had the good fortune of living in an era of advancing technology and scientific discovery. He adopted the lithium battery and a more accurate sensory imitation of smoking tobacco.

After a salvo of revolutionary contributions, the vape pen is at its historical peak in design, function, and variety. Disposable vapes heralded a new generation of convenience. Entering the market in 2019, they quickly became a vape favourite. The familiar and much-talked-about Elf Bar adorned the market with even more flavour options, neatly packed into an attractive disposable pen.

Today, the popularity of vapes is surging. In June 2023, Action on Smoking and Health (fittingly acronymised to ASH) released a slew of sobering stats about child vaping that seemingly sent me into a pensive ponder on the subject.

The article touches on a variety of points. One is the number of children who try vapes and then go on to use them; another is the number of children who bypassed tobacco and made haste for its colourful contemporary.

Wherever you are in the country, you’re almost guaranteed to see the inevitable pen clenched in the hands of schoolchildren and young adults. It’s an unsettling image with no descending curve in popularity in sight.

Undue habits and addiction seem to be human nature. Fizzy drinks, chocolate, coffee, nicotine, alcohol, sex, and drugs. It’s an interminable list. Substances can be dated back to the genesis of modern man and were often used as remedies or an access point to escapism. To enter a state of addiction, one must sever all ties to reason and will. There must be a total relinquishment of portion, sense, and concern.

Addiction has no taste for what’s appropriate and carelessly skips past laws and health advice.

Facts vs. Myths | Vaping | Corewell Health

Nicotine’s fashionable resurrection is at its peak. Researchers and scientists pledge to uncover debilitating health risks associated with smoking vapes while environmental specialists get ready to chime in.

In an article from January 2024, Sky News divulged the whopping 1.3 million vapes disposed of by Brits weekly. Hon Lik’s revolutionary adaptation of lithium batteries may have bolstered the use of vape pens; however, its complicated nature poses a challenging conundrum to separate it from the vape. Subsequently producing an unrecyclable product.

And, while a whole generation of users has caused governing bodies to debate a ban on the devices and effectively tipped them over the precipice, a separate yet modular group of people can feel their backs nearing the walls. Cigarette smokers.

While parameters restricting accessibility is a win for some, it’s a loss for those who rely on vapes to wean themselves off tobacco.

Have we essentially forged a product replete with health and environmental implications and marketed it for consumer indulgence? It feels like a ruse.

I sat down with a good friend and vape user to get a taste of the life. He smokes both cigarettes and vapes and has donned the former – on and off – for the best part of a decade. There is an apparent struggle for most smokers. The harsh reality of inescapable addiction burns a hole not only internally but also in the wallet – or, Apple wallet, if you’re keeping up with the times.

They racked up an astonishing £60 on tobacco, filters, papers, and an array of vape pens a week – which were bundled together in a luring five for the price of three deal.

In this case, the vape is as much a catalyst for change as it is a health benefit. Instead, it’s an extra degree of gradient in this uphill struggle he’s trying to overcome.

Whether you stand by the vape or against it, indisputable arguments exist for both sides. I, for one, will remain intrigued to see the types of reforms the new government will bring for vapers. And whether another bout of technological advancements can bring life to a new, less damaging iteration of the vape.