Disposable Vapes - An Ethical Crisis?

/ 4 min read

Disposable Vapes - An Ethical Crisis?

In recent years, disposable vapes have taken the market by storm. Available in most local convenience stores, the brightly coloured, easy-to-use vape pens are proving popular amongst consumers - especially the younger generations. Pre-filled with a range of menthol and non-menthol flavours, disposable vape pens do not need to be refilled or recharged, and the entire device is thrown away after around 575 puffs.

Sounds great, right? Despite their ease of use, the throwaway pens pose a number of ethical problems. Here, we explore the issues surrounding disposable vape pens and ask, are they really worth the hype?

Are Disposable Vape Pens Bad For The Environment?

Whilst our wider society is, for the most part, working towards eliminating single-use plastics - with supermarket giants swapping plastic bags for paper and most bars scrapping plastic straws - disposable vape devices certainly feel like a step in the wrong direction.

Although they do offer convenience for the consumer, it’s hard to ignore the environmental concerns that come with disposable vape pens. They are mostly made out of hard plastic, and since they cannot be reused or recharged, they must be thrown away once the liquid has run out or the battery has died. Because of this, they are much less sustainable than regular vapes - such as those that EDGE offer - where devices can last for months, or even years, with only the pods needing to be replaced.

The issue is, hard industrial plastic is not recyclable or sustainable, so disposable vape pens are likely to end up in landfill, where they will take thousands of years to decompose. As the devices continue to skyrocket in popularity, we have to consider the toll this is taking on our planet. Disposable vape pens left on the street will eventually break down into microplastic and chemicals that will flow into drains to pollute our waterways, soil and wildlife.

Can I Use a Disposable Vape Pen to Stop Smoking?

In theory, yes. A disposable vape device can be a great way to stop yourself from reaching for a cigarette. The issue is, most popular brands will only offer high-strength (20mg) nicotine devices, with no way for consumers to progress towards a nicotine-free or low-nicotine option. Many would argue that manufacturers have some social responsibility when it comes to enabling users to cut down on nicotine consumption - offering less addictive products for those who are on a smoking cessation journey.

Are There Any Other Issues With Disposable Vapes?

Most disposable vape devices fall within the parameters set out by the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) - a directive of the European Union that places limits on the sale and merchandising of tobacco and tobacco-related products in the European Union (EU).

The TPD stipulates that all e-liquids, and indeed disposable vape devices, should contain no more than 20mg of nicotine. But how rigorously are such rules held to standard?

Alarmingly, an increasing number of consumers are being sold illicit devices that contain as much as 50mg of nicotine, as unlicensed sellers capitalise on the demand for popular disposable vape brands. Recently, Better Retailing has reported that a number of convenience retailers have expressed concern after unwittingly selling illegal versions of the popular disposable vape pens. These products have been developed specifically for the US market - with many missing important warning labels.

What’s more, these illicit devices are potentially causing harm to consumers, with social media platforms filled with users reporting a number of side effects, including headaches and even incidents of throat and nose bleeding. To find out more about the potential dangers of using a disposable vape pen, read our blog post here.

Should We Be Concerned About Young People Using Disposable Vape Pens?

Andrew Bush, professor of paediatrics at Imperial College London, recently warned that vaping was a “huge crisis for young people”.

He said: “This is hooking young kids and making them nicotine addicts. It’s really, really worrying.”

Whilst it is illegal to sell nicotine products to those under 18, social media is full of posts from teenagers boasting about getting their hands on the popular products, reviewing new flavours and puffing on the vibrant devices in front of the camera. Of course, this is an incredibly worrying prospect.

While many would consider a disposable vape pen an efficient, convenient alternative, it’s clear that there are many issues that need to be addressed. It’s important that consumers educate themselves on the pitfalls, ensuring they are using disposable vape pens in the safest and most environmentally-friendly way possible.