‘A lot of them never smoked’: How Elf Bars took over Britain’s universities

Elf Bars are the joint-strongest disposable vape you can buy in the UK, containing the nicotine dosage of 48 cigarettes

SWNS reporter
Friday 23 December 2022 11:31 GMT

More than a quarter of UK university students say they are addicted to Elf Bars, the largest investigation of its type has found.

A total of 27 per cent of students admitted being addicted to the disposable vapes while more than half - 53 per cent - say they have used an Elf Bar since the start of term in September.

The data suggests the proportion of students using Elf Bars who have never previously smoked is far higher than previously thought among e-cigarette research.

The study was carried out by student newspaper The Tab and was the first of its kind to measure their popularity throughout universities.

It surveyed more than 18,000 students across 24 universities via individual university Tab Instagram accounts.

Figures were only recorded from a university if there were at least 100 respondents to the question asked.

The findings present the most current picture of the extent the brightly coloured vapes have taken over campuses across the country.

Oxford Brookes had the largest proportion of students who have used an Elf Bar this year. 67 per cent said they have used one since September. This was followed by Lincoln, 64 per cent, Newcastle, 61 per cent, Bristol, 61 per cent, and Manchester, 60 per cent.

Of the 24 universities surveyed, the majority of students had used an Elf Bar in 15 universities.

At the other end of the scale, a modest 38 per cent had used an Elf Bar in Oxford and it was even lower at 26 per cent in Cambridge. Durham equally scored low on Elf Bar usage, with a similar 40 per cent having used them.

Elf Bars are the joint-strongest disposable vape you can buy in the UK, meeting the legal limit of 20mg/ml of high-strength nicotine salts e-liquid.

Each bar contains the nicotine dosage of 48 cigarettes.

The Tab also surveyed just how quickly students are getting through their 48-cigarette nicotine dosage. For the majority of students, it appears they are casual users.

Elf Bars are the joint-strongest disposable vape you can buy in the UK, meeting the legal limit of 20mg/ml of high-strength nicotine salts e-liquid.

60 per cent said they bought a new Elf Bar “less than once a week”. There was little variation in this figure between universities but was highest in Edinburgh, 65 per cent, Glasgow, 64 per cent, and York, 64 per cent.

15 per cent of students who use Elf Bars say they buy them weekly, 10 per cent buy them twice a week and 15 per cent buy more than two a week. This means a quarter of student users are buying a minimum of the nicotine dosage of 96 cigarettes each week.

When polling more than 8,500 students who say they use Elf Bars, The Tab also found 51 per cent said they did not previously smoke cigarettes.

This was highest in Lancaster, 60 per cent, Glasgow, 58 per cent, Cardiff, 57 per cent, Lincoln, 56 per cent, and Sheffield, 55 per cent.

A previous study by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) found whilst the proportion of never smokers now vaping is the highest it’s ever been, the public health charity found it to be only 8.1 per cent.

Dr Lion Shabbah, professor of health psychology at University College London and co-director of UCL’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group told The Tab: “I would have assumed that something like 80 per cent would have been previously smokers and maybe 20 per cent who weren’t.

“So that is something that jumped out at me and is somewhat concerning because as you can imagine the argument in the tobacco control community is that e-cigarettes are a harm reduction product and harm reduction for existing smokers.”

41 per cent of students said they only used their Elf Bar in social settings compared to 36 per cent who admitted to using theirs daily and 23 per cent who said infrequently.

The figures also showed a clear divide between the social users and the daily users. 45 per cent of students said an Elf Bar would last them for a week or longer. But an equally sizeable 35 per cent said they would finish and Elf Bar in a few days. A combined 20 per cent use an entire Elf Bar in a day or on one night out (10 per cent each respectively).

Despite the majority of students saying they’ve used an Elf Bar this term, the figure who admit to being addicted is far lower, measuring nationally at 27 per cent.

In Coventry and Manchester, over a third of students said they were addicted to Elf Bars but for Durham, York, Warwick, Glasgow, Cambridge and Edinburgh, this figure was below 25 per cent.

Dr Shabbah added: “To some degree, it doesn’t surprise me that increasingly quite a lot of students might be using [Elf Bars] but what does surprise me though, is that a lot of them obviously have never smoked.

“Up until the introduction of these new disposable devices, I would have thought we were striking the right balance. Use was very low among young people and mainly restricted to smokers.

“However, in this context, with the huge proliferation of use among never smoking students, I do think that that we may have to pivot a bit in terms of our approach to how we deal with this.”

Elf Bar has been approached for comment.

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