In what is an alarming development, Elf Bars, disposable vape devices are being sold to minors in Hungary. The state issued a ban on owning and selling these electronic cigarettes in order to prevent minors from getting addicted to an extremely harmful nicotine-containing product.
In early 2022, anyone who traversed big cities in Hungary was likely to be approached by individuals asking them if they wanted to buy an Elf Bar. Initially, most people were unaware of what Elf Bars were. They are disposable, pre-filled vape devices that quickly started to spread among high school students. The reason why minors would buy or use these devices is quite simple. Vaping has always been known as an alternative to cigarettes, many that were addicted to normal tobacco have switched to vaping, because they believed it is healthier. These high schoolers also found the alternative and realized that there are several factors that make them more likeable than normal cigarettes.
On one hand, vapes do not leave a lingering smell, therefore, if they use them in or after school, their parents will not smell smoke on them once they get home. Another factor is that the steam that vapes create is not smoke, it does not make one choke on it. As toxicologist Gábor Zacher said: ‘While our generation had to choke from cigarette smoke inside the school’s bathrooms, those who use vapes do not have to face this problem’ – since the by-product of vaping is steam, not smoke.
Another factor, that might play the largest role in people wanting to try the devices is the taste. Elf Bars are flavored and according to users, they taste good as well. They usually have flavors such as blueberries, lemonade, bananas and other sweet tastes.
They basically inundated Hungarian public schools with the bars
Elf Bars are easily accessible to anyone who owns a debit or credit card– or borrows their parents –as they can be purchased online. According to press reports, before the ban secondary school students started to order the bars in large quantities from abroad, and used them not only at home but took them with themselves to school. Soon enough, some started to sell them to their peers. Once their business plan started to work, they started to order and sell more and more, until they basically inundated Hungarian public schools with the bars, in some cases targeting children as young as 12 or 13 years. Some of those who bought the Elf Bars became addicted, becoming regular customers.
Elf Bars also gained popularity among young adults and for a while became part of the nightlife in cities.
What are They Exactly?
As mentioned before, Elf Bars are disposable vape devices, similar to the devices widely known in the US as “JUUL”. A vape is a vaporizer. Vaporizers run on batteries and the voltage they create to produce steam. When one uses a vape, the device vaporizes the liquid in it and vapers inhale the steam thus created.
Liquids in vapes are made up of two main ingredients: Propylene-Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin. These ingredients also used by the food industry. However, besides these two main substances, they frequently contain nicotine, and some form of aroma, which provides various flavours. In regular vapes, one uses this liquid, and refills their device once it is empty. By contrast, Elf Bars are designed for one-time use.
Many smokers who switched to vaping from normal cigarettes did so for environmental considerations. Since cigarette butts are non-recyclable, the more they smoked, the more they contaminated the environment. In most vapes, the only part they would have to dispose of was cotton and a small amount of wiring.
The problem with Elf Bars, and for that matter with any disposable vape, is that they also end up in the rubbish bin. Furthermore, they are even more detrimental to the environment than cigarette butts, since they are made of plastic, metal and include a disposable battery, which qualifies as hazardous waste.
The Effects on Health
Whether vaping is less harmful than cigarettes has been discussed and researched for over ten years now. Most scientists have come to the conclusion that they are less harmful, however, they are not at all healthy. The most serious concerns surround the long-term effects of vaping, although electronic cigarettes have not been around long enough to allow scientists and doctors to determine what those are exactly.
In terms of elf Bars, the worrying matter is that neither users nor scientists know precisely what they contain. Scientists do know that the liquid in them contains all the ingredients mentioned before, however, they do not know the ratio of them, since they are not stated on the boxes. Also, most of these devices contain nicotine, but they come without the unpleasant smell and in various flavours, which is why they are esepcially appealing to minors.
Another concern is that the amount of nicotine in Elf Bars is shown differently than in regular vape devices. In most cases, nicotine content in vape liquids is reported in a milligrams/milliliters ratio. For example, a liquid whose container states 3mg/ml would contain three milligrams of nicotine per milliliter. This would mean that in a hundred milliliters, one would consume 300 milligrams of nicotine. 100 milliliters of liquid is a large amount, and most vapers use it up in over a month. A regular cigarette on average contains 12 milligrams of nicotine, thus, one pack would contain 240 milligrams.
A regular cigarette on average contains 12 milligrams of nicotine, thus, one pack would contain 240 milligrams
On the basis of these numbers, one can easily determine weather they absorb more nicotine from vaping or from regular smoking. Elf Bars, however, mark their nicotine content by per cents. For example, one “bar” states that it contains 5 per cent of nicotine and users have 600 puffs. So a single Elf Bar that has a 5 per cent nicotine content and has 600 puffs contains as much nicotine as 14 packs of cigarettes – the equivalent of roughly 3360 milligrams of nicotine.
The Ban in Hungary and Worldwide
Consuming such amounts of nicotine is highly addictive and detrimental to the health, especially if the user is an adolescent whose body is still developing. For this reason, the Hungarian government banned Elf Bars on 5 June, making it illegal to own, selling or even use these devices.
A few years ago the United States faced a similar problem with the so-called “Juul” devices that are basically the same as Elf Bars. Many states in the country wanted to solve the issue by banning flavoured vape liquids from being sold. However, the devices continue to be sold on the black market. Also, the overseas version of Elf Bars known as Puff Bars are increasing in popularity, and the federal e-cigarette regulations introduced by the Trump administration have proven to be ineffective in stopping what is described in the US as the youth vaping epidemic.
Outlawing the Device Worked in Hungary
Elf Bars have disappeared almost as quickly as they had started to spread
The Hungarian regulation seems to be more effective than the ones in the US. Thanks to the blanket prohibition of the disposable e-cigarette device, sellers have gone silent online, and one does not get approached in the streets anymore. The black market will probably never disappear completely, since some will risk breaking the law in the hope of high profits. But the spread the epidemic has been successfully stopped. Elf Bars have disappeared almost as quickly as they had started to spread, thanks to the swift pushback they encountered from the authorities. The government’s decisive action is part of their larger objective of reducing smoking and preventing young people from getting addicted to nicotine. It was part of a comprehensive anti-smoking campaign that the Hungarian government restricted the sale of tobacco products to the so-called state-controlled National Tobacco Shops and banned smoking in virtually all public spaces, both indoors and outdoors, in 2011. Outlawing Elf Bars is a continuation of the government’s war on nicotine. With the ban having almost completely eliminated the market, parents in the country are now able to put their minds at ease, knowing that their children are safe.