Bright, colourful and “yummy”, Dundee youngsters’ time sucking on disposable vapes could soon be coming to an end.
First Minister Humza Yousaf has promised a crackdown single-use, or disposable, vapes, including consulting on an “outright ban”.
Three cheers, right?
Personally, I’m relieved – and not just so I can stop writing about the disgusting things.
I have spent this year watching the campaign unfold from the city where it all began, Dundee.
From picking up littered vapes on the streets of Perth and Kirkcaldy, to speaking to a Dundee teen who said she “can’t live without her disposable vape”, I have been in the thick of it.
And where else can we start than with LessWasteLaura?
Abertay student Laura Young and I first met in January, when she explained her concerns for the environmental damage which disposable vapes can cause.
Her passion was contagious, and I found myself writing about disposable vapes every chance I got.
— Laura Young (@LessWasteLaura) September 5, 2023
I could see the way the devices were changing Dundee.
They simply weren’t popular when I was in secondary school (six years ago), but from interviewing Dundee teenagers I have learned that their use boomed after the Covid-19 pandemic.
And sure enough, I was seeing them everywhere. I had vapes on the brain.
I couldn’t go a single street in Dundee without walking through a cloud of vape smoke.
It was a long day, out on the streets of Arbroath first, then Broughty Ferry, Perth and Kirkcaldy.
I found almost 40 disposable vapes littered near bins, on street corners, under hedges and even in play parks.
Teenagers were using them and then tossing them, using them and then tossing them, not caring about the impact on the environment around them.
Dundee council backed ban bid in February
Soon, disposable vapes had been mentioned in the Scottish Parliament. Laura’s actions had made waves and the then health secretary, Humza Yousaf said the government would be considering a ban.
It was amazing to see how the actions of someone living locally could impact the government’s discussions.
Back in Dundee, it became clear that disposing of these disposable vapes was no easy feat.
Laura and I ventured to two recycling centres in Dundee, and discovered that staff had no clue how to recycle disposable vapes.
Vapes, when littered, allow valuable lithium to go to waste. They also pose a fire risk.
Angus Council waste teams had an “unfortunate close call” this year when an improperly disposed lithium battery burst into flames in one of their vehicles. It was suspected that this was caused by a disposable vape, though they can’t say for sure.
Since, dozens of other Scottish Councils have followed suit.
But it was Laura’s campaigning which encouraged Dundee councillors to take that first step.
Dundee was set to be the first city to ban disposable vapes, with talk of a pilot scheme.
Dundee young people and disposable vapes
And disposable vapes were clearly bothering young people too.
DJCAD student Dan Tough hates the things so much that he focused his project on disposable vapes.
The huge 7ft vapes, he said, represent the scale of the problem.
He was the first young person who I’d spoken to who expressed a dislike for disposable vapes.
It felt like my faith in humanity had been restored.
But the problem was still going on.
Not long after, I spoke to a garage manager who told me that discarded disposable vapes had been damaging the tyres of Dundee drivers.
The vapes can pierce or burn through the rubber of tyres if they end up on the road – and I have seen plenty of them on roads.
Found seven disposable vapes on the road in Broughty Ferry this evening — in less than five minutes! pic.twitter.com/yZ9Rdr3RN7
— Joanna Bremner (@C_JBremner) April 17, 2023
Other teens told me about how they are hooked on disposable vapes.
I spoke with pupils from Dundee’s Morgan Academy, one of whom, just 15-years-old, told me that she “can’t live without her vape”.
At this point, it became very real for me. She was fidgety and irritable, classic signs of addiction, and while this could have simply been the behaviour of a nervous teenager, she told me herself:
“When I don’t have one, I feel really agitated.”
Teens could finally get a reprieve if the Scottish Government goes ahead with a ban on disposable vapes.
They face peer pressure to try vaping, and if the quick, cheap and colourful disposable vapes were off the market, they could finally catch a break.