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On Tuesday, 2nd May 2023, the Australian government announced a ban on recreational vaping, which entails stricter regulations being placed on e-cigarettes. Through a heavy set of controls on imports and packaging, this marks the biggest crackdown on this industry in more than a decade to try to stop the alarming rise in teenage vaping. But what exactly does this ban entail?

Announcing the new regulations, Australia’s health minister Mark Butler stated that non-prescription vapes will be banned from importation, and vape products will need to have pharmaceutical-like packaging, aimed at being sold as products to only help smokers quit. Along with this, all single-use and disposable vapes will be banned. 

In a speech at the National Press Club, Butler says “Just like they did with smoking, Big Tobacco has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging, and added flavors to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.” He further adds that “this is a product targeted at our kids…” sharing that “vaping has now become the number one behavioral issue in high schools (and primary schools)”. 

Targeting Youth 

Butler calls vaping a “recreational product” in Australia, with teenagers and young people it is targeted at being three times as likely to take up smoking. Last year, vape manufacturer Juul Labs Inc. reached an agreement to pay $438.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 33 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, alleging that the company had targeted youths in its marketing, and portraying vaping as a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who led the negotiations with Texas and Oregan, said in a statement that “Juul’s cynically calculated advertising campaigns have created a new generation of nicotine addicts”, shedding light on how these corporations are strategically marketing their products to appeal to a younger demographic, exacerbating nicotine addiction amongst the youth. 

Student use of e-cigarettes is alarming

The United States has seen a massive rise in adolescent vaping, with some health experts dubbing it an epidemic. According to federal data from the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it was found that 14.1% (2.14 million) of high school students and 3.3% (about 380, 000) middle school students reported currently using e-cigarettes, with nearly 85% of these users using flavored e-cigarettes.

What’s more shocking, is that 27.6% of these users are vaping every day. These numbers are staggeringly high, but still on the rise. So why is vaping so predominant among youth, and could companies be using them and their impressionability as a marketing tool?

Billion Dollar Business

Vaping is a billion-dollar business, with global vaping sales expected to reach $40 billion this year. In fact, cigarette and tobacco companies are so aware of this, that they’ve started dabbling in it.

British American Tobacco (BAT), which happens to be the largest tobacco company in Europe, launched the popular e-cigarette brand, VUSE, owned by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, a subsidiary of the tobacco giant Reynolds America, which manufactures major cigarette brands including Camel and Pall Mall. Cigarette maker Altria (responsible for manufacturing cigarettes such as Marlboro) invested $13 billion into Juul, the troubled vaping company. However, Altria slashed the value of its Juul investment by more than $1.2 billion, citing its new value at $450 million as it reported second-quarter earnings.

Although vaping has been portrayed as a healthier version of these cigarettes, those very cigarettes are firmly involved in creating these vapes, digging into the e-cigarette market, which is mostly consumed by the youth. 

How Vape Companies Market To The Youth 

Youth is more experimental and more likely to be enticed by the aesthetically appealing approach these brands take to market their devices. From the wide variation of vape flavors to the sleek, fashionable design of the devices, companies are marketing these dangerous devices in a way that appeals to this demographic. Not only that, but they also use strategic marketing through their various platforms, including social media. 

Social Media Strategies

BAT has continued to promote its products through social media. According to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which aims to raise awareness and protect kids from smoking, BAT has paid social media influencers under the age of 25 to promote the use of social media, despite its own internal marketing policies. 

“BAT currently uses social media to promote (Vuse/Vype) in more than a dozen countries including France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, and Colombia. The global ad campaign uses hashtags #teretoaprobarlo (#idareyoutotryit) and captions like “feeling Vype AF” to promote Vype in thousands of posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter,” says the campaign. 

E-cigarette brand Juul has also come under fire for this. The company, partially owned by tobacco giant Altria, skyrocketed to the top U.S. vaping market in 2017, due to its wide variety of vape flavors, including mango and creme brulee. However, this startup’s rise was fueled by heavy use among teenagers, with many becoming addicted to their high-nicotine pods. It’s not just what these ads contain, it’s where these ads are being displayed.

Puff Bar is one of the many disposable alternatives to the now-banned Juul flavored vapes, placing their adverts on TikTok, with kids making up a large number of the users on the social media site.

Follow The Juul Money

On the “Follow the Juul Money” episode of CNBC’s American Greed podcast, light is shed on the viral marketing antics Juul has used for their products, with speakers sharing that “if they had been marketing Juul to middle-aged smokers, you would’ve seen a totally different advertising campaign.” Studies have proven this by looking closely at e-cigarette video adverts, finding that these adverts contain over 40 features known to be appealing to youth.

The FDA Gets Involved

In February 2020, the FDA first began to take enforcement action against e-cigarettes by banning flavored cartridges used in these vaping devices, except tobacco and menthol flavors, along with those targeted towards minors, an action that was designed to target Juul. 

Juul didn’t just face lawsuits from states and corporations, they face a few from citizens. The number of e-cigarette lawsuits has grown rapidly among teens and young people. Most of these lawsuits have either been filed by young adults or parents of underage children who weren’t aware of the side effects of vaping.

Many of these plaintiffs have claimed to experience seizures, lung damage & other severe injuries, including strokes, at the hands of these e-cigarette devices, which can even explode at any moment. While the FDA has acted against flavored vapes, there is a major loophole that their order hasn’t covered; disposable e-cigarettes.

Disposable E-Cigarettes – The New Alternative

According to the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Study, youth usage of disposable e-cigarettes is up over 2000% since 2019. The FDA may have ordered manufacturers to remove their fruit and desert flavored products from the marketplace due to how appealing they became to youths, but they never acted against the same appealing flavors in disposable e-cigarettes. Simply put, their rule isn’t mitigating the vaping epidemic, it has only changed the type of nicotine being consumed. Brands such as Puff Bar, the alternative to the now banned flavors, are offering flavors such as peach and strawberry, which are not just catching the eye of the youth, but of the FDA too.

Disposable Vapes Put On High Alert

The FDA issued warning letters to Puff Bar for receiving and delivering e-cigarettes in the United States without a marketing authorization order. They have also denied premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) for new Hyde e-cigarettes. 

Stating that their application lacked sufficient evidence demonstrating that these flavored e-cigarettes would provide a benefit to adult users that would outweigh the risks to youth, the request was denied. According to the FDA, the company must stop selling these products and remove those on the market for risk enforcement action.

Why Are These Products Still Being Sold?

With all these laws in place, it makes it difficult for these corporations to run a tight ship. Countless states have agreed to the flavored vape ban, with others completely restricting the sale of these devices. So what’s their next bet? Marketing to a new country and demographic.

Where to next?

Earlier this year, the FDA issued Marketing Denial Orders (“MDOs”) for two Vuse products—the Vuse Vibe Tank Menthol 3.0% and the Vuse Ciro Cartridge Menthol 1.5%. After determining that the application lacked enough evidence to demonstrate that allowing the market for the products would be appropriate for protecting public health, based on applicable standards legally required by the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. However, a quick online search shows that these are available for purchase on third-party websites.


So just how are these illegal flavored pods still available? Just because the FDA bans something, it doesn’t stop these brands from taking their devices into place with eased restrictions. A prime example of this is Africa and particularly South Africa. A new tobacco bill calls for prohibiting the display of e-cigarettes in all retail settings. However, there are currently no regulations enforced regarding the production or distribution of vape-related devices and products in South Africa.

These regulations allow these e-cigarette brands to sell their devices without legal repercussions, and guarantee easy accessibility to customers, with these stores being available everywhere, from the middle of malls to your local supermarket. 


Photo by VapeClubMY on Unsplash

The Danger In Ingredients

While vapes don’t produce any tar or carbon monoxide, they may be just as deadly. Nicotine is the primary addictive ingredient in tobacco, which has not only been shown to have a negative impact on brain synapses but also acts as a vasoconstrictor, leading to an increase in blood pressure and heart attack risk.

One could even say that vapes contain way more nicotine than classic cigarettes. In fact, a single milliliter of vape juice, which provides 100 puffs has been shown to be equivalent to 5 packs of cigarettes. Along with this, the effects of the chemicals are more detrimental when breathed through vaping, as opposed to smoking. 

In 2020, the Trump administration, backed up by the FDA, stated that it would effectively ban all flavors of vaping cartridges, with the exception of menthol and tobacco. This led to a huge spike in these unbanned flavors, which were considered “safe” options. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo explained his decision not to ban these flavors, claiming that “the menthol flavor for vaping helps menthol cigarette smokers.”

Although menthol is an organic compound found naturally, a study found that it has high levels of pulegone, a cancer-causing chemical in menthol-flavored vape juice. In fact, some menthol vape juice products are known to have up to nearly 100 times the safe limit of pulegone. It not only acts as a carcinogen but also causes blood levels to fall. 

Highlighting the greatest vaping health risks

The e-liquid in the vape carries the most health risks, beginning with the many chemicals involved in the flavoring process. A few of these include:

  • Formaldehyde: Typically used in flavors such as vanillin, this is inhaled as a gas, and is associated with an increased risk of leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Acrolein: While mild exposure can cause general irritation, heavy exposure to this chemical can severely injure someone’s lungs, which could potentially lead to/cause death.
  • Benzoic Acid: Although this compound wasn’t designed for inhalation, it is included in vapes to make the inhalation of nicotine easier. Side effects include coughing, headaches, dizziness, and tremors. 
  • Acerals: Used as a flavoring, these can cause airway irritation, with long-term use causing lung damage.
  • Diacetyl: Used as a flavoring to create rich flavors including caramel, it can cause bronchiolitis obliterans, which is the scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs

Raising awareness about the pitfalls of vaping

Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death. With vaping being marketed as a healthy alternative to cigarettes, it has taken the world by storm, creating a whirlwind of addiction and misuse, especially in the youth. What manufacturers don’t tell consumers is that these devices can cause the following:

  • Asthma
  • Lung Scarring 
  • Organ Damage
  • Lung Injury
  • Cancer
  • Injuries due to devices exploding

The bottom line

Vapes can be extremely dangerous. People are not fully aware of the risk they are putting themselves in by using these devices. This is because marketing strategies portray them as being safe. Companies need to be held liable, and laws need to be implemented before this becomes more dangerous and deadly.

Insurance companies have even come forward to share how vape smokers will have to pay higher premiums due to the health risks they are at. So what will it take for governments globally to put the health of their citizens first and implement laws that genuinely protect them? According to Butler, “We were promised this was a pathway out of smoking, not a pathway into smoking.” 

Header Image by Renz Macorol on Pexels


Huang, J., Duan, Z., Kwok, J., Binns, S., Vera, L.E., Kim, Y., Szczypka, G. and Emery, S.L., 2019. Vaping versus JUULing: how the extraordinary growth and marketing of JUUL transformed the US retail e-cigarette market. Tobacco control, 28(2), pp.146-151.
Besaratinia, A. and Tommasi, S., 2021. The consequential impact of JUUL on youth vaping and the landscape of tobacco products: The state of play in the COVID-19 era. Preventive Medicine Reports, 22, p.101374.
Jonas, A., 2022. Impact of vaping on respiratory health. bmj, 378.
Bongane Nxumalo

Bongane Nxumalo

As a recent graduate of Rhodes University, Bongane is skilled in content production and editing for Print Media, Digital Media, and On-Air Content. With an interest in Current Affairs, Entertainment, and Politics, Bongane is able to provide a vast range of content that is relevant, informative, educational, and entertaining.


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