The Inconsistencies Between the Energy Drink and the Vaping Market 

Vaping has come under increasing fire over the last few years, with increasing demonisation from the media leading to widespread public mistrust and fear. 

The government has responded with a litany of damaging proposals, from the banning of disposable vapes, a ban on flavoured vapes, and even a plan to apply the same high taxation to vape products that is currently applied to tobacco!

This is in spite of the fact that vaping is considered to be the most effective quit-smoking tool by the NHS, officially recommended to all smokers as a ‘substantially less harmful’ alternative. 

Ironically, the government themselves have made an effort to clear up some of the myths around vaping, pointing out that they don’t contain tar, pose second-hand risks, or lead young people to smoke. 

Most of the concerns around the vaping industry have arisen thanks to the reported rise in youth vaping. We completely agree that this is a problem, but we don’t agree that limiting the choice of adult ex-smokers is the right way to go about things – especially when other industries are allowed to continue unchecked. 

One of the most glaring examples is the energy drink industry. Energy drinks pose a variety of risks to young people, and their popularity is continually rising. However, they don’t experience nearly the same level of scrutiny or condemnation as vaping. 

We’ve put together a side-by-side comparison of the two industries to highlight a few of these contradictions… 

Header image reading the "the health impact" showing a woman vaping and a man drinking an energy drink

The Health Impact of Energy Drinks VS Vaping 

The Health Impact of Energy Drinks 

Thanks to their aggressive marketing tactics and dubious claims that energy drinks raise physical and cognitive performance, energy drink consumption is higher than ever, particularly among young people. 

But what are the real health implications of heavy energy drink consumption? 

Regular consumption can have several negative health effects, including: 

  • High blood pressure 
  • Obesity 
  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Kidney stones
  • Nausea and stomach irritation 
  • Dental erosion 
  • Stress and anxiety 
  • Poor sleep 
  • Aggression 

Despite some drinks stressing their vitamin and mineral content, the primary ingredients in energy drinks are copious amounts of sugar and caffeine. 

The average can contains around 200mg of caffeine – equivalent to two cups of strong coffee – and up to 20 teaspoons (78g) of sugar, which is more than three times the maximum adult daily intake. 

Experts have consistently warned against regularly consuming energy drinks. Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician at the Mayo Clinic, stated that healthy adults should not drink more than one energy drink can per day, while children should avoid them entirely. 

However, as we all know, many drink much more than this. The BBC spoke to a young man who suffered from heart failure after regularly consuming four 500ml energy drinks a day, with doctors believing he had experienced ‘energy drink-induced cardiotoxicity’. 

Before becoming hospitalised, he struggled to cope with day-to-day life thanks to the impact of the energy drinks, suffering from migraines whenever he didn’t have a can, alongside regular tremors and heart palpitations. 

The Health Impact of Vaping

Vaping has become regularly demonised in the media, leading to many widely-held public misconceptions about the health risks of vaping. While we never recommend any non-smokers to take up vaping, we do recommend it as a healthy alternative to smoking. 

Much-feared health complications, like popcorn lung, are actually the result of banned substances like diacetyl, which cannot be found in any UK-manufactured TPD-compliant e-liquids

Often, when you hear reports of negative incidents, it is the result of people purchasing unregulated, illegal disposable vapes from corner shops. You won’t have any of these issues if you avoid buying these black-market disposables

The main health implications of vaping are side effects from excessive use

  • Headaches
  • Coughing 
  • Sore throat 
  • Nausea

Simply cutting down on your intake should quickly resolve these issues. Vaping as we know it has been around for 20 years, and there is still no evidence to suggest that vaping can cause cancer

The Presentation of Energy Drinks and Vaping 

Energy Drink Marketing 

Energy Drinks are actively marketed towards children. You don’t need to do much digging to see the reality of this situation – just take a look at some of the biggest brands on the market today. 

Plastered in bright colours and cartoonish imagery, with bold, edgy brand names, these drinks are purpose-built to appeal to younger audiences, the result of carefully planned multi-million-pound advertising campaigns. 

These drinks are often advertised—and even launched by—viral children’s influencers on platforms like YouTube, quickly captivating the hearts and minds of young audiences, and taking the US and UK markets by storm. 

Once these fruit-flavoured ventures have been sufficiently hyped up to impressionable youths, they’re launched with sneaky marketing tricks, such as artificial demand. By deliberately undersupplying vendors, energy drinks become hard to come by, launching their fad status into the stratosphere. 

This resulted in one particular product becoming something of a status symbol on the playground, to the point that several schools across the UK had to ban the drink from their premises. 

One school explained that energy drink “bottles can be a major distraction to lessons as children are removing themselves from their lessons to be seen drinking with [them]”. 

Despite energy drink companies denying they participate in any children-targeted marketing, these aggressive marketing campaigns can be seen regularly today. One brand even secured advertising across 60 youth sports events in 2023! 

The effectiveness of these campaigns has been undeniable. 

A study by the European Food Safety Authority found that while just 30% of adults drink energy drinks, a shocking 68% of adolescents (aged 10-18) consume them on a regular basis. 

Even more worryingly, a surprising 18% of children (aged 3-10) also consume energy drinks, with an average consumption of about 0.95 litres per week. 

With energy drink popularity rising year-on-year, these figures are only expected to get worse. 

Vaping Marketing 

Vaping has often come under fire in the media, purported to actively target younger people with bright colours and sweet candy flavours. However, the reality is a little different. 

Unlike energy drinks, vaping products are actively – and correctly – regulated, meaning that they cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18. All vaping products must adhere to strict government marketing regulations, so they cannot be advertised on television, in newspapers, magazines, on social media, or in text messaging. 

Vaping products can only be presented factually on the seller’s own website or packaging, meaning they can only advertise to the 18+ visitors who actively seek out their products. All vaping products must clearly indicate the relevant warnings on the packaging, letting consumers know of any potential risks. 

While some vaping products are marketed with eye-catching colours and tasty flavours, this is not an attempt to target minors. This is simply a response to the demands of the adult market, who actively prefer tasty and attractive products!

Vaping may be rising as a popular alternative among young smokers, but considering that e-cigarettes are helping these people avoid the health risks of smoking, we don’t think this is a bad thing. 

Header image reading "the sale" showing a tank vape lying on its side and two energy drink cans in a bed of ice

The Sale of Energy Drinks and Vapes

Purchasing Energy Drinks 

The medical view on energy drinks is clear – these high-caffeine, high-sugar beverages should not be consumed by children, pregnant women, or breastfeeding women. Ideally, they shouldn’t be consumed by adults either! 

Unfortunately, however, the legal view is much blurrier. While the government has proposed some regulations to stop under-16s buying energy drinks at retailers and convenience stores, these have never gotten off the ground. 

Currently, there are no rules in place to prohibit the sale of energy drinks to minors. Some shops have voluntarily restricted the sale of high-caffeine beverages to people under a certain age, but many continue to sell them freely to whoever has the cash. 

While energy drinks containing 150mg of caffeine need to be labelled with the words “high caffeine content” and advised that the product is not suitable for children, this is not enough to put off any would-be consumers. 

As the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation pointed out, these labels are often in the “small print” of the can, where they can be easily missed or ignored. 

Energy drinks are often placed at a low height on shelves and refrigerators, easily within reach of any interested children, making them easy to grab and take over to the counter. 

With prices starting as low as £0.89 for a 500ml bottle, kids can easily purchase multiple energy drinks with their pocket money, allowing them to regularly consume dangerously high sugar and caffeine levels. 

Purchasing Vapes & E-Liquid 

Unlike energy drinks, a lot of legal measures and precautions have been put into place to stop vapes and e-liquids from getting into any unwanted hands. 

According to Regulation 3 of the Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015, it’s a criminal offence to sell nicotine-containing or nicotine-inhaling products to any individuals under the age of 18. 

This law applies to everyone: from corner shops to family friends, or associates. Any sale is punishable by a £2500 fine. 

But that’s not all. There are also a range of Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR) rules that vendors must abide by to ensure consumers are not receiving any products with an overly-high nicotine concentration or any prohibited ingredients. 

All shops and retailers must not sell any products that have more than 20mg/ml (2%) nicotine content and no devices that have a capacity of more than 2ml of e-liquid. 

All vaping products must contain fully TPD-compliant ingredients, with no harmful substances like diacetyl or diethylene glycol to be included. 

Finally, all vape products or packaging must be child-resistant and tamper-evident, providing another measure to stop children from gaining access to these adult quit-smoking products. 

Shops caught disregarding TRPR laws can face prosecution, a £5000 fine, and seizure of all related stock. 

Although some stores and individuals do still flout the rules to make a profit, the government is taking steps to crack down on these illicit sales

Our Stance 

Here at Vapoholic, we think it’s vitally important that all products are sold responsibly and kept firmly out of the reach of children. 

To witness vaping be criticised as a blight on the youth of the nation – while other potentially harmful industries continue actively selling towards minors unchecked – seems to be very unfair. 

Concerns around youth vaping are the result of black-market vendors who disregard the rules carefully put into place to protect younger audiences. 

We advocate for the responsible sale of vapes and the introduction of additional measures to ensure vapes continue to serve as a healthy smoking alternative to any adult who needs them. 

Requiring shops to get a licence to sell vape products, increasing the budget of Trading Standards to carry out more regular inspections to assure traders are complying with TPD laws, and more rigorous border inspections to prevent illegal disposable vapes from entering the country are all great ways to ensure responsible sale without harming the industry and its users. 

Banning flavours or making vaping more expensive will do nothing but make smoking appear more attractive, undoing all of the brilliant progress that has been made in recent years. 

Make your voices heard, and let’s keep vaping safe as an effective quit-smoking tool! 

ACS. Energy Drinks: Information for Retailers [online] Available at: https://cdn.acs.org.uk/public/energy-drinks-guideforretailers.pdf

Action on Sugar (2015) Energy drinks. [online] Available at: https://www.actiononsugar.org/surveys/2015/energy-drinks/

ASA (2024) Vaping, smoking and drugs [online] Available at: https://www.asa.org.uk/topic/vaping_smoking_and_drugs.html

BBC (2021) Student’s heart failure linked to ‘excessive’ energy drinks. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-56747731

BBC (2023). Ban on flavoured vapes and tax hike considered. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-67299056

BBC (2023) Prime: KSI and Logan Paul’s hydration and energy drinks are being banned in schools. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/65762827

Cancer Research (2023) Is Vaping Harmful? [online] Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/is-vaping-harmful

CNN (2017) What that energy drink can do to your body. [online] Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/26/health/energy-drinks-health-concerns-explainer/index.html

European Food Safety Authority (2013) “Energy” drinks report. [online] Available at: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/130306

Food Navigator (2013) Energy drink companies put on defensive in Senate hearing on kid-targeted marketing. [online] Available at: https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2013/08/01/Energy-drink-companies-put-on-defensive-in-Senate-hearing-on-kid-targeted-marketing#

Front Office Sports (2023) After $250M in Retail Sales, Prime Hydration Looks to Youth Sports. [online] Available at: https://frontofficesports.com/logan-paul-ksi-prime-hydration-youth-sports/

GOV.UK (2015) The Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing Regulations 2015) [online] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/895/regulation/3/made

GOV.UK (2016) E-cigarettes: regulations for consumer products. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/e-cigarettes-regulations-for-consumer-products

GOV.UK (2018) Clearing up some myths around e-cigarettes. [online] Available at: https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/20/clearing-up-some-myths-around-e-cigarettes/

GOV.UK (2018) Ending the sale of energy drinks to children [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/ending-the-sale-of-energy-drinks-to-children

GOV.UK (2024) Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know. [online] Available at: https://healthmedia.blog.gov.uk/2024/04/15/creating-a-smokefree-generation-and-tackling-youth-vaping-what-you-need-to-know/

GOV.UK (2024) Vaping Products Duty consultation. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/vaping-products-duty-consultation

Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (2018) Letter to the Science and Technology Committee. [online] Available at: https://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/energy-drinks/written/81180.html

National Library of Medicine (2015) Energy Drink Consumption: Beneficial and Adverse Health Effects. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4682602/

Neurons (2020) Energy drinks – it’s all in your head! [online] Available at: https://www.neuronsinc.com/insights/energy-drinks-its-all-in-your-head

NHS (2019) Using e-cigarettes to stop smoking [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/using-e-cigarettes-to-stop-smoking/

NHS (2022) Vaping to quit smoking – better health. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/vaping-to-quit-smoking/

Public Health England (2015) E-cigarettes: an evidence update. [online] Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5b6c3f57ed915d30f140f822/Ecigarettes_an_evidence_update_A_report_commissioned_by_Public_Health_England_FINAL.pdf

Source PR (2023) Prime Time: The Impact of Scarcity Marketing. [online] Available at: https://www.sourcepr.co.uk/prime-time-the-impact-of-scarcity-marketing/

UK Active (2022) Energy drinks and young people. [online] Available at: https://www.ukactive.com/blog/energy-drinks-and-young-people/

 

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