Vapes, electronic cigarettes, e-cigs were originally introduced to help smokers to give up their nasty habit. At first they were marketed as healthier, more cost effective, better than smoking but then the advertising council decided that electronic cigarette vendors could no longer claim that they helped people to give up smoking or that they were a healthier choice, instead they were only allowed to market them as an occasional alternative. This is perplexing when we consider that the NHS puts forward e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation method.

When electronic cigarettes hit the market we believed it would help millions of people to breathe cleaner air, to avoid lung disease, premature ageing, heart attacks and more. The first e-cigarettes didn’t pack much of a punch, they satisfied cravings, a little, but didn’t give the acrid throat hit synonymous with smoking a real tobacco smouldering cigarette. This also meant they didn’t burn the lungs from the inside out, but that fact eluded the general population.

As ethical e-cigarette brands worked quietly improving the draw and the taste of their electronic cigarettes to deliver an experience akin to smoking a real fag others popped up with stronger hits, stronger tastes and throat burning vapes. All of a sudden we saw indiscreet people carrying Ghostbuster-esque proton packs followed by huge dense clouds of ghostly white smoke that emitted a sickly sweet smell reminiscent of eighties synthetic flavours such as Sunny D and Angel Delight. The ozone fighting mists would act as gigantic arrows to the puffer as they floated atop of cars and bushes alerting passers by to a sucker who was trying to lead a healthier lifestyle through pulling on these obnoxious cartridges and expelling plumes of saccharin fog.

They were embarrassing but they did the job. They delivered the throat hit, they injected the nicotine into the bloodstream and they eliminated cravings for real cigarettes. Many turned a blind eye to the problem of research, or lack of it, and still do today. We still don’t know if puffing on these plastic spring loaded vials is better for our lungs, brain and heart or if, like tobacco, we’ll see the fallout in a few lifetimes. There have been whispers of a condition named popcorn lung yet no health warnings or concrete evidence.

Fast forward to today, the proton packs are now sleek colourful iridescent pens that fit discreetly under any sleeve and can be purchased with a week’s pocket money. A fiver will give you six hundred puffs of a flavour of your choice.

When you consider it, it’s mind boggling that in today’s woke world these technicolour offerings have been allowed to spawn on every High Street corner, tempting children like the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang child catcher with puffy clouds of sweet tasting lung rotter like “watermelon ice” “strawberry dream” “salted caramel surprise” 
Each flavour, of course, is laced heavily with the highest concentration of nicotine that is ethically allowed to draw the kids back, again and again. 
There’s a poorly child somewhere shivering, grinding their teeth, ensuring hot flushes and snapping at their best friends completely oblivious that they’re enduring nicotine withdrawal as they’ve been forced to spend a weekend away with the family, without their blue cotton candy vape. 
These stores are not for adults, as my latest foray into the vaping world shows. This is a real conversation with the shop assistant. 
“I’m looking to give up smoking, and want to try a vape, what do you recommend?” 
Him, rubbing his hands with glee, “the banoffee pie is popular as is any watermelon or strawberry flavour. How about the raspberry waffle?” 
Each flavour description made me think they’d be a rude explanation accompanying them on the Urban Dictionary. 
“See, the problem is, the reason I smoke is because I adore the tobacco flavour. I’m used to it. I’m also not great with synthetic flavours. Now if you have at a tobacco one then I’ll snap your hand off.” 
“We don’t. Sorry. The closest you’ll get is the butterscotch – we used to but it wasn’t very popular so we ditched it.” 

No longer are these an aid to smoking cessation, they’re the new penny sweets that kids must collect to look cool for their peers. With names such as Elf Bar, Mary Jane and Crystal Ice, these are not marketed to adults. Imagine a cocktail called “Elf on the Shelf” or “Barbie’s Dream” – the alcohol industry would be slammed hard, as they were in the age of alcopops, yet vaping companies are getting away with this today and they know exactly what they’re doing. Adults aren’t buying these vapes.

With tempting sweet flavours and collectible colours these toys are pumping addictive substances into our kid’s veins and for those with addictive personalities they could be a gateway to bigger things.