It’s no secret that 2021 has been the year of the disposable vape! Even those who do not vape will have no doubt noticed the sudden influx of these uber-compact, single-use vaping devices onto shelves across the country. From corner shops to specialist vape stores, retailers in the UK have responded in-kind to the newfound demand for disposables, a category of vaping device that was held in relative obscurity until now.
You may have already tried these devices, and if you haven’t yet, it’s possible you might be tempted to give them a go. It’s hardly surprising given their popularity – if everyone is vaping them then surely they must be good, right?
The reality is that while the vast majority of disposable vapes available will not do any immediate harm, they are not without their faults. This means it is all the more important that before you dive straight in, you are armed with the knowledge to ensure you are making not only the best, but the safest choice on your vaping journey.
What Are Disposable Vapes?
In simple terms, a disposable vaping device is closest in relation to pod devices like the LiQuid Air. They are super-light, uber-compact devices that are ideal for those travelling light on nights out or with an active lifestyle involving regular travel or commutes.
Where they differ however is that rather than disposing of only the pod (with the exception of those pod systems that are refillable), the entirety of a disposable e-cigarette is, as the name suggests, intended to be discarded once the e-liquid inside or battery runs out.
They function in a very similar way to cartomiser or “cigalike” vapes. The e-liquid inside is soaked into a cotton-filled chamber rather than freely bobbing about in a tank. This e-liquid is then heated by a small ceramic coil, typically with a higher resistance than would be found in most 50-50 devices (around 2.0ohm as opposed to circa 1.5ohm).
The devices are almost always draw-activated, which means they only fire up when you inhale through them, again much like cartomisers. They do not feature buttons or customisable controls, the only output is a small light that illuminates when the device is used.
They cannot be recharged and, while there are different models out there to choose from, the majority of disposable brands have opted for sleek, brightly coloured plastic housings. The colour typically denotes the flavour within, although some product information like flavour and nicotine strength tends to be embossed onto the device also.
The e-liquid within a disposable will almost always be a 50-50 20mg nic-salt e-liquid, this means they deliver a very high level of nicotine but are typically very smooth because of their use of salt over freebase nicotine – you can learn more about Nic Salt e-liquids here. While 20mg is the current standard for most brands some have begun introducing a 10mg options also, however this is in the minority. Using a 50-50 PG-VG ratio also means the e-liquid evaporates more slowly, extending their lifespan.
As the devices are single use, their approximate lifespan is often given in terms of “puffs”. This essentially equates to the number of times the user can expect to draw on the product and receive a hit of vapour before it runs dry or loses power.
Why Are Disposable Vapes So Popular?
The biggest appeal of disposable vapes is convenience. No matter your opinion on them, you cannot get away from the reality that their size and weight make them a far less demanding option than carrying around a standard device and e-liquid bottles. For many this has led to disposables replacing a vaper’s existing device, even in times when their convenience is not paramount.
A notable benefit of using disposables is one that is unique to social culture. With the end of UK lockdowns and a return to traditional socialising, the number of people going on nights out and partying has exploded as we all try to claw back some enjoyment from what has been a fractious 2021 for most.
For many, the thought of taking their daily e-cigarette out with them carries a variety of risks from simply losing it to destroying it altogether in the haze of a drunken night. This alone is impetus for many to opt for a disposable, which provides enough nicotine to meet any craving in a package designed to last little over 2 days, and with an exceptionally low cost of around £7 (still considerably cheaper than the cigarettes that might otherwise provide a tempting option on nights out under the old excuse of “it’s just one night”).
As a result of a disposable’s synergy with social culture, the reality is that young people in particular are the primary demographic for their purchase. In fact, it is almost exclusively a market enjoyed by the youngest demographics that still legally qualify for the purchase of 18+ products. This goes a long way in explaining such a sudden rise to popularity – the youngest of us arguably felt the greatest anticipation of a return to pubs and clubs following the relaxing of covid-19 restrictions.
One of the most decisive factors in their success lies in their availability. Demand has reached such highs that retailers who previously did not even carry vaping products are now stocking disposable devices. This means that those who have not yet tried them, or perhaps even tried vaping at all, are exposed to them everywhere they go, increasing the chances of them becoming a part of the ever-growing number of disposable users. Simultaneously this means that those already vaping with disposables never have to travel far for a new one.
Commenting in Better Retailing magazine, Ken Singh, of BB Nevison Superstore in Pontefract, spoke of the benefit they have brought to his store: “They’re a really popular product and I sell between 50 to 100 each week. However, I expect more as the craze is on an upwards momentum. The margins are really good as I buy them for £2.90 and sell them to customers for £5.99.” – Other retailers reported selling between 600 and 700 units per week in busier locations.
With such competitive margins for sellers and such solid demand from consumers, it is no surprise that they have become so widely available.
Beyond social factors, the products themselves have achieved much acclaim in terms of flavour variety and delivery. The e-liquid within a disposable is often extremely flavoursome, with a massive prevalence of sweet, fruit and ice flavours taking the spotlight. This naturally ties in with the tastes of the young audience they attract and has secured their continued popularity even more so than their convenience.
The Problem With Disposable Vapes
As with any rapidly growing phenomenon, disposable e-cigarettes are not without their share of issues. While there will always be those who are happy to overlook these factors for the sake of convenience and flavour, it is wise to measure the downfalls against your own needs and adapt your behaviour accordingly.
Are Disposable Vapes Safe?
While the majority of disposables you will find on shelves are produced to established compliance standards, and registered in-line with TPD regulations, their staggering demand has opened consumers up to risks.
In fact, there have been a number of cases of illegally imported disposable vapes reaching UK consumers. While in appearance these non-compliant version look just like their regulated counterparts, many contain banned ingredients in their flavourings and can be as strong as 50mg Better Retailing reports, 30mg above the legal 20mg limit of sale for a nicotine containing product in the UK.
In addition to illegal nicotine content, these imported examples are often missing critical health warnings that are required by UK law. These devices have entered the market as disreputable suppliers approach retailers during times of high demand, offering one-off deliveries of stock of new and “exciting” varieties of leading brands, often at discounted rates.
While not confirmed at this time, investigations are still on-going into the link between particular leading disposable brands, illegally imported non-compliant variants, and a recent spate of social media posts. Activity which has seen users reporting bleeding from the nose and throat as well as while coughing – all supposedly while using disposable vapes.
Retailers are advised to buy from only registered, accountable stockists rather than “van sales” to prevent these products from harming consumers, but until your safety can be assured – buyer beware.
Never be afraid to challenge a retailer if a product appears non-compliant, they may not even be aware of what they are selling, especially if they are not a regular stockist of vaping products with a limited understanding of the industry and its regulations.
The ecologically conscious among you may already be acutely aware of the environmental controversy linked to disposable vapes. Despite this their popularity confirms that convenience is winning-out against logic.
Regardless of your stance on the environment, the reality is that disposable vapes are by their very nature a willing contributor to the ongoing crises affecting our planet, from landfill issues to pollution. Disposable vapes are not designed with ecology in mind.
Almost every disposable on the market, and certainly those manufactured by the brands accounting for upwards of 90% of their sales, feature a shell made from plastics like HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). This is a plastic which will not biodegrade and weathers poorly, while in normal circumstances it can be recycled, because of it’s contact with nicotine, plastics like HDPE used in disposables cannot be recycled at all.
The e-liquid within disposables, while less harmful in small amounts, is still damaging to the environment if it leaks into the ground or water sources and means that the user cannot simply recycle or dispose of the product at home. This will inevitably lead to greater instances of incorrect disposal leading to an increased risk of pollution.
Within every disposable device is a lithium-ion battery, these are often very cheaply constructed and, while held to safety regulations, carry a significant risk if left in a municipal bin, exposed to the weather. A fate that befalls the vast majority of disposable vapes people throw away – it is not likely that someone in the city centre will seek out a special electronic goods bin to ensure it is processed properly.
The combination of e-liquid pollutants, non-biodegradable plastics and lithium batteries being improperly disposed of, multiplied by the staggering number of these devices sold every day, contributes to a growing concern that disposable vapes could be the catalyst of their own environmental crisis.
Environment forms a core pillar of our LiQuid Corporate Social Responsibility, and as such, we advise the ecologically minded of our community to think twice before contributing to one of the least conservative products the vaping industry has yielded to-date.
Exceeding Your Needs
Another potential issue of disposables to note, is that convenience may tempt users into trying a product that far exceeds their needs. We’re talking about nicotine of course.
As we have said, the majority of disposables are only available in 20mg nic salt. While the nicotine salts used make them as smooth as a 6mg e-liquid, the reality is that they deliver a very intense dose. If you are a person who normally vapes a 3, 6 or even 12mg product, the amount of nicotine delivered by just two puffs on a disposable will go far beyond the amount delivered in multiple hits of a normal device.
This carries two main risks. The first is that you are far more likely to over-vape, especially if you are used to a weaker product. As described above if you replicate your normal usage levels while using a disposable, even as a one-off on a night out, you are very likely to experience the symptoms of nicotine overdose (nausea, headaches, sweating etc..).
While that alone is a very unpleasant experience, the second risk is far more insidious; by vaping such a strong product, especially over a longer period of time if you decide to stick with disposables over normal vapes – you will intensify your addiction. Your body will attune to receiving a much stronger hit, which may result in your old e-cigarette and e-liquid no longer satisfying your cravings even if you switch back from disposables. This can be particularly damaging for those who are actively trying to reduce their intake.
If you have worked hard to get to a point on your vaping journey where you feel the cigarettes are a thing of the past and you have reached a far lower level of nicotine intake, experimenting with disposables is not advised. Even if it seems like the best option as a one-off, take care to ensure you are not exceeding your needs and undermining your own progress.
Should I Try Disposable Vapes?
Ultimately while disposable vapes seem like a fun, convenient solution for situations where your normal e-cig may not fit the bill, you must always take care to remember the risks above and measure them against your needs.
This is not to say that disposables should be outlawed, but more can be done in the industry to combat their ecological impact and control their sale to protect UK consumers. Until then it falls to the consumers themselves to be responsible in their purchasing and use of disposables, taking every step they can to ensure they are disposed of properly and safely.
Follow the advice given here, only buy from reputable retailers and always check your packaging for the correct nicotine strength and health warnings; even regulated examples have been accused of mis-representing the number of puffs offered. Many state the user should get from 500-600 puffs on their packaging, but persistent user accounts have claimed little over 250 are actually delivered in many cases.
If you want to play it safe, we have a fantastic range of e-liquids available to try, including our own £1 nic salts for those seeking the craving satisfaction of a disposable without the associated risk.
If you purchase a disposable, enjoy it responsibly and encourage others to do the same. With retailers and consumers united, we can create a more sustainable vaping industry for all.