A condensed history of ‘vape’

Last year, Oxford Languages’ word of the year was goblin mode. Apparently 300,000 voters decided upon it, but I haven’t heard anyone use it. It rocketed into view after someone posted online a fake headline about the break-up of Julia Fox and Kanye West after a month together. ‘He didn’t like when I went goblin mode,’ it read. Fox later made it clear she had said nothing of the kind. It means ‘self-indulgent, lazy, or greedy behaviour that rejects social norms’. I suspect goblin mode is a vogue term that will disperse like the morning mist. Talking of mist, vape has made another advance in establishing itself in the language.

The environmental cost of vaping

A few months ago I wrote a piece for The Spectator about the surge in popularity of Elf Bars and the potential health risks of these colourful e-cigarettes. But disposable vapes are now posing a different kind of problem – for the planet.  These single-use devices, which last for around 600 puffs, head straight to landfill after users suck out their smoke. The vapes which don’t make it to the dump can be found lining the gutters of our cities, having been cast aside. In Britain an estimated 4.3 million people use vapes today, up from around 800,000 a decade ago, according to YouGov data. And more than a third of all vapes bought last year were disposable, with this

The dangerous rise of Elf Bars

Have you seen the colourful sticks with blue lights hanging out the mouths’ of most teens and many adults? Elf Bars are the colourful and sweet disposable vapes causing a wave of dependence across all age groups.    While the government is looking to rid the nation of tobacco smokers, electronically delivered nicotine is becoming a new frontier.   People who have not smoked before are getting addicted to Elf Bars. And ex-smokers are turning back to cigarettes to wean themselves off the potent pens.  Costing between £4 and £12 depending where you buy them — they are cheap. Watermelon, Grape, Cola and Cotton Candy are a few of the

The WHO’s bizarre war on e-cigarettes

When the COP26 climate change conference hits Glasgow at the end of October, the media will be out in force to discover how world leaders are going to meet their ambitious carbon emission targets. It will be on the front pages. Edited highlights will be on television. Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon will be elbowing each other out of the way to get in the limelight. Extinction Rebellion will be performing their doomsday japes outside. But when COP9 begins in November, few will notice. Admittedly, this event is being held online this year, but it would have flown under the radar even if it had been held in the Hague,

How many Britons now vape?

Talking Turkey David Cameron again accused the Leave campaign of ‘lying’ about the prospect of Turkey joining the EU. A reminder of what he himself has said on the subject: — ‘I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership. And to fight for it… I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy.’ (Speech to Turkish parliament, 2010) — ‘In terms of Turkish membership of the EU, I very much support that. That’s a longstanding position of British foreign policy which I support. We discussed that again in our talks today.’ (Speech in Turkey, 2014) — ‘At

Dear Mary | 24 January 2019

Q.A senior colleague, on discovering that I’m a friend of someone who has become quite famous, engaged with me warmly for the first time. In their youth, she alleged, she and the ‘celebrity’ had been great friends — could I arrange a reunion? My celebrity friend drew a blank, even when I supplied a photograph and CV of my colleague. Although the celebrity is a kind woman, she’s also super busy and I don’t feel I can lean on her to have a reunion with someone she may never have met. I don’t want to insult my colleague by suggesting she must be mistaken. What should I do? — Name

Vaping’s appeal isn’t about the nicotine. It’s about the gadgets

Probably you never visited the flats of middle-class student drug dealers in the 1990s, because crikey, neither did I, and look, let’s just move along. Even so, were there ever to be found a Platonic form of such a place, or, as the beer adverts might put it, If Heineken Did the Flats of 1990s Middle-Class Student Drug Dealers, then I now know precisely what such a place would look like. It would look like a vape shop. To be more specific, it would look like the vape shop I visited a few weeks ago in north London. It was perfect down to the last detail. Paraphernalia all over the

If you believe the internet, I was the Israeli army’s answer to Jason Bourne

One of the strangest and, in a weird way, best things to have happened to me in the past year was the emergence of a firm conviction among a quite large collection of internet weirdos that I spent my youth fighting for an elite unit of the Israeli army. It started after a boozy pre-Christmas lunch almost exactly a year ago, when a woman tweeted me. I vaguely recalled that she had tweeted me before, probably about Jews or bankers or Palestine or Dolphin Square or Jimmy Savile, all of which I get quite a lot and normally ignore. This time, though, she had a question. She wanted to know

She was Ariadne to my Theseus

My contempt for vaping deepened as vaping contraptions became more ostentatious and people started hanging them from lanyards around their necks. When Trev starting vaping, I lost what little hope for the future of humankind that I had left. He puffs on his elaborate dummy non-stop when we go out. The first time I gave it a sceptical look, he took it out of his mouth and offered me the wet end. ‘Have a taste,’ he said. ‘Blueberry and cream flavour. Nice, isn’t it?’ ‘Ponce,’ I said. During this summer’s Spectator cruise, smoking was banned except on the starboard side of two decks. It was a bit of a nuisance,

Spontaneous recombustion: how vapers have re-invented pipe-smoking in electronic form

A fascinating newcomer on the British high street is the vape shop. These were perfectly described by my friend Paul Craven as ‘like a cross between an Apple Store and an Elizabethan apoth-ecary’. In the splendid All About da Vape in Deal, there is a glass cabinet full of new, hi-tech ‘mods’, ‘tanks’ and ‘coils’, while on rows of shelves behind the counter is a Cambrian explosion of coloured bottles containing e-liquid in many strengths and flavours, hipsterishly labelled Suicide Bunny, Jimmy the Juice Man or Miss Pennyworth’s Elixirs; I recently bought a bottle of something called Unicorn Puke. Yet to anyone over 40 it all seems strangely familiar in

A lightbulb moment at the self-checkout

I spent the last few days in Deal and Folkestone with Professor Richard Thaler at Nudgestock, Ogilvy’s seaside festival of Behavioural Science. On my way home I decided to stop off at M&S to buy some runny scotch eggs and a pie, accompanied by some unwanted green things to make my basket look middle-class. Finding a long queue at the main checkout, I grudgingly took my goods to the self-checkout machines. (For the uninitiated, Richard Thaler is the co-author of Nudge, and more recently the author of Misbehaving. He is perhaps the godfather of behavioural economics, a dissident strand of economics which holds the outlandish view that the discipline might

‘Quitting is suffering’

Few people have heard of Hon Lik, which is a pity because he’s probably saved more lives already than anybody else I have met. Twelve years ago, he invented vaping — the idea of getting nicotine vapour from an electronic device rather than a miniature bonfire between your lips. Vaping is driving smoking out at an extraordinary rate, promising to achieve what decades of public health measures have largely failed to do. And it is doing so without official encouragement, indeed with some official resistance. Via an interpreter, and sucking on an electronic pipe, Mr Hon told me how it happened. And here is the key point, the one that

Vapers deserve to be angry – they are under attack

There is a perception – on Twitter at least – that vapers are angry and abusive. Ben Goldacre recently described ‘e-cigarette campaigners’ as ‘vile… obsessive, vindictive, abusive, and to an extent that is clearly dubious’. This inevitably led to a string of replies from bewildered vapers that may have confirmed his view, although the vast majority were polite. From what I’ve seen, vapers are no more likely to be offensive than any other punter on social media, which is admittedly a low bar. After the referendum on Scottish independence and the general election, not to mention the periodic bursts of outrage for which Twitter is notorious, I have seen much worse

Another scare story about e-cigarettes. What we should be worrying about is sugar

‘E-Cigs Time Bomb’, shrieks the front page of today’s Daily Mirror. Vaping gets kids hooked on nicotine, experts fear. Experts do a lot of ‘fearing’, it strikes me, but what we don’t know – cannot know for years – is whether e-cigarettes will cause long-term addiction to nicotine. Or what proportion of those nicotine addicts will be people who wouldn’t have smoked cigarettes if a safer alternative hand’t been available. Tiny is my guess. I notice that the Mirror’s online version of the story backs away from the panic-stricken splash, actually describing the story as a ‘scare’. One triggered, no surprise, by the state of California, which is obsessed with banning

America declares war on e-cigarettes. But it’s an ideological battle, not a medical one

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have launched a wildly expensive campaign against e-cigarettes because… well, I can’t really work out their logic, but the sickly aroma of liberal puritanism is unmistakeable. The medical arguments are risible. The Wall Street Journal reports: Print and radio ads starting Monday target e-cigarette users who continue to smoke traditional cigarettes. They depict an e-cigarette user named Kristy alongside a caption that reads: ‘I started using e-cigarettes but kept smoking. Right up until my lung collapsed.’ So it was vaping that caused Kirsty’s lung to collapse, was it? Nope: it was smoking cigarettes. Of which she did less because she also vaped, but

MPs back plain cigarette packets. Smokers, get over it. Or switch to pretty e-cigs

MPs are voting today in favour of the introduction of standardised cigarette packaging. There hasn’t even been a debate on the issue and the BBC thinks the result is a foregone conclusion. That’s bad news for the tobacco industry, hardline libertarians and Nigel Farage. It’s been amusing watching the Tobacco Manufacturer’s Association carve out its nuanced – almost schizophrenic – position on the matter. Smoking is bad for our health and it is impossible to argue otherwise. So they don’t. Theirs must be the only industry which is resigned, ostensibly at least, to deterring potential customers. Big tobacco firms have an obligation to their shareholders, so they have to say something in their own defence. Their position is

‘Smoking kills, nicotine doesn’t’: a huge boost for campaigners who say e-cigs save lives

Dr Derek Yach has done more than any man alive to eradicate smoking. A former professor of global health at Yale, he developed the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, now in effect in almost 180 countries. He has relentlessly drawn attention to the slippery tactics of the tobacco industry, which promotes its products while ostensibly lending its support to anti-smoking campaigns. But his article in today’s Spectator Health breaks ranks with former colleagues in the WHO, which disapproves of e-cigarettes and other vaping products. Their ‘intransigence’ threatens the lives of millions, he argues. As matters stand, a billion people will die from smoking-related diseases by 2100. If that happens, the WHO will

Help me become an addict

When the White Queen told Alice she had sometimes believed as many as six contradictory things before breakfast, she spoke for us all. But our irrationality goes further than a simple after-the-event report. Even while we’re believing it, we can know that something we’re believing contradicts something else we believe. Take, in my case, addiction. I believe that addicts lack self-discipline and willpower. Yet I know that this cannot really be the explanation. I feel a faint but ineradicable disapproval of people who can’t stop eating, smoking, drinking or injecting themselves with heroin, while knowing that this reaction is not only harsh, but must be ignorant. I half suspect people

E-cigarettes are making tobacco obsolete. So why ban them?

If somebody invented a pill that could cure a disease that kills five million people a year worldwide, 100,000 of them in this country, the medical powers that be would surely encourage it, pay for it, perhaps even make it compulsory. They certainly would not stand in its way. A relentless stream of data from around the world is showing that e-cigarettes are robbing tobacco companies of today’s customers — and cancer wards of their future patients. In Britain alone two million now use these devices regularly. In study after study, scientists are finding e-cigarettes to be effective at helping people quit, to show no signs of luring non-smokers into tobacco