The year is 2004, and the first vape that can be classed as a disposable vape pen entered the market.
It doesn’t have the effect that some might expect as being the best conduit, from smoking traditional cigarettes to entering the world of vaping and living a tobacco-free life.
The market leans more towards ego-threaded vape pens, replaceable coils, and refillable tanks. They may not be as convenient, but they deliver a better vape experience at a more cost-effective price.
We’ve seen many transitions in the market from popular pre-filled closed pod systems (JUUL), refillable pod systems, squonking, and sub-ohming with high-wattage mods.
None of which can really be described as a fad. They all still have their place in the market, and you’ll find many enthusiasts who only use squonk mods or DL vape with high-wattage devices.
However, as we fast forward to 2022, disposable vape pens seem to be taking over the industry. Almost every top vaping brand has its own line of disposable vapes or is releasing them.
At the recent Vaper Expo UK (May 2022), nearly every stand was dedicated to disposable vapes.
Yes, it was evident that some were new brands potentially just trying to make a quick buck from white-labeled disposables.
However, even renowned companies like Innokin had their new Aquios-based disposables ‘Lota’ front and center.
How did we get to this point? Is this just a fad? And what are the implications for the vaping industry?
Let’s take a deep dive into disposable vapes to find out.
Why are disposable vapes so popular?
There’s no denying that disposables are the easiest type of vape product to use. They require no understanding of Ohm’s law, battery amperes, and nicotine percentages, for that matter.
There are no fire buttons or device control buttons, and most don’t have adjustable airflow. They are as easy as unpacking the device, and then you can start vaping.
This ease of use makes them an ideal product for beginner vapers or smokers looking to transition.
The average disposable vape pen can now deliver around 400 puffs before it’s depleted. It is often noted that a pack of cigarettes only can usually deliver around 200-400 puffs. This is dependent on the individual vaping/smoking style. Suppose you took the larger of the two numbers. In that case, carrying one disposable vape pen is far easier, healthier, and in most cases, cheaper than having a pack of cigarettes.
Then you’ve got some higher capacity disposables that can go as far as 5000 puffs and all the variations of flavors – that make a disposable a far more appealing prospect.
So why now? How did disposable vape pens suddenly become so popular? Surely the industry could’ve delivered a quality disposable many years ago.
Potentially yes. However, a few subtle but important advances in vaping technology have led to disposables delivering a far greater experience.
Advances in Disposable Vapes
Nicotine salt is not new. In fact, it was first introduced by JUUL with the closed pod system back in 2015. However, it does play a significant contributing factor in the popularity of disposables.
Nicotine salts can typically deliver a smoother vape experience and a higher dose of nicotine to the bloodstream. The use of nicotine salts is ideal for disposables as it keeps the draw smooth, with less harsh throat hits, and doesn’t interfere with the flavoring.
Most disposables come in 5% (or 50mg) nicotine concentration, which means you need fewer puffs to suffice your nicotine cravings. In the EU, the limit is 2% (20mg), but this is still a good level for MTL vaping.
Better Coils – Mesh
The coils are the most significant advance that has enabled disposables to deliver a great vape experience. Many disposable vape pens actually use mesh coils, which have only been prevalent in the last few years.
Mesh coils are able to heat up faster and deliver the vaper quicker than a regular coil. However, even those that don’t use mesh coils will deliver a good vape experience.
You may notice that very few disposables have juice windows. This is because they typically have all of the juice pre-soaked in the wicking material that surrounds the coil. This prevents any leaking or dry hits and also helps maintain a consistent vape throughout.
It’s all about the sweetener
One of the things you may notice when vaping a disposable is just how sweet the flavor is. This is because many manufacturers add extra sweeteners to make the flavor pop.
The issue with using sweetener on traditional vape devices and coils is that it gunks them up quickly and ruins the coil’s lifespan. However, that’s not an issue with disposables. The coils only need to last as long as the juice capacity or battery. Therefore you tend to find that some disposables can deliver a sweet flavor that really pops compared to other vape devices.
Another significant improvement over the last few years is the variety of flavors available from disposable vape brands. As more and more manufacturers are focusing on their disposable lines, they are trying to keep users in their ecosystem by introducing more and more flavor profiles.
While you will always get the common flavors like Watermelon Ice and Peach Ice, that can also be found in most vape juice ranges. You often find that some of the more exotic combination disposables offer, can’t be found elsewhere. This means once a vaper falls in love with that particular juice flavor, they are kind of stuck to solely using that disposable.
While we haven’t necessarily seen major advances in battery technology in vape devices, we have seen brands eeking out the most they can from each mAh to give their disposables a decent puff count.
We have also seen many brands go for huge juice capacity and large internal batteries to create disposables that can last as many as 5000 puffs. Seeing that this makes the disposable a bit more of a cumbersome device to contain such a large battery, some manufacturers have turned to rechargeable batteries in disposables. This enables them to keep small compact devices while still offering large puff counts and longevity. However, the user will have to recharge the devices a few times.
One of the most significant advances and the reason why using a disposable is almost effortless is the use of auto-draw switches. This works by activating the device and heating the coil when you inhale.
Auto-draw switches have been present in vape devices for a while, but they have certainly improved in the last few years. Some manufacturers have been able to get them down to just the slightest of hair triggers to activate. This, combined with the fast heating of mesh coils, really does deliver that seamless and impressive performance from disposables. Of course, you can find excellent auto-draw switches and mesh coils in pod vapes and other devices, but the fact they are present and work well in disposables vapes does enhance the experience.
What are the negatives of disposable vape pens?
We’ve covered some of the main reasons we are seeing a huge influx of disposable vapes and the trend in the market towards them. Unfortunately, it’s not all positive for the vaping industry and users.
One of the most worrying negatives of the increase in disposables is the effect on the environment.
Vaping has always had a bit of a dark cloud hanging over it when it comes to being eco-friendly. There are many plastics with replaceable pods, the majority of which probably don’t get disposed of in the right way.
The main issue with refillable and replaceable pods is that they typically contain several elements (metal, plastic, cotton) that it is tricky to separate them down into. This means they end up going into general household waste and can’t be recycled.
The same can be said for replaceable coils, but to a lesser extent as they are smaller and mainly metal.
Nonetheless, whichever way you look at it, the sheer explosion of the vaping industry in the last few years has introduced more waste into the environment.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem like most vape manufacturers are doing enough to make sure their products are as eco-friendly as possible.
Disposable vapes, unfortunately, make the situation a whole lot worse. This is because you are not only disposing of small pieces of plastic or metal coils but the whole device, including a battery cell.
While some brands and vape stores do offer recycling of disposable vape pens to make things easier on the user. The truth is that most vapers will not dispose of them in the right way, and there will be a lot of hazardous waste entering the environment that shouldn’t be there.
I’ve even seen disposables lying on the side of the street where people have been incredibly careless. Vape pens can leak and release metals, battery acid, and even nicotine into the environment. This waste can contaminate water and animal habitats, and that’s not even mentioning the physical damage a discarded battery could cause.
There is a counterargument to the environmental waste of vaping, that cigarettes also produce a vast amount of waste. It takes a vast amount of paper to produce the 5.7 trillion cigarettes made each year. Also, the chemicals in one cigarette end can contaminate up to 1000 liters of water.
That being said, a lot more can be done in the vaping industry to lessen the impact on the environment.
How can you reduce the environmental impact of vaping?
The short answer would be don’t use disposable devices long-term, and if you do use them, make sure you dispose of them in the right manner.
Rechargeable devices that only use replaceable coils create far less waste. So it would be a good idea to transition to one of these devices from disposable vapes.
If you do use a rechargeable device, stick to using lower wattages. You will consume less vape juice and, in turn, create less waste. If you are MTL vaping, you could always switch to using nic salts, as it delivers nicotine more rapidly, so you don’t need to vape as much to feel satisfied.
Also, try switching to juice that contains fewer sweeteners; this will increase your coil longevity and create less waste.
Not as cost-effective
Disposable vapes may be able to save you money over smoking traditional cigarettes. However, they are not as cost-effective as using a refillable vape device.
You can purchase a refillable pod vape for the approximate price of two disposables. Using your own vape juice in the refillable device will also be cheaper. Pod systems and vape pens that use replaceable coils instead of pods typically work out to be even more cost-effective.
If you want to save even more money, using a rebuildable atomizer like an RTA is even more cost-effective. You can build your own coils or purchase premade ones, which last an incredibly long time, as you can often just replace the wicking material when flavor decreases.
What’s next for disposables?
It’s hard to determine what will come next in the vaping industry. My gut feeling tells me disposable vapes are not going away any time soon.
I’d like to see more vaping brands introduce easier recycling programs for disposable devices. Or at least pay more attention to the negative environmental effects their products cause. Perhaps plant trees, clean seas, or donate to environmental causes from their profits – wishful thinking, I know!
It would also be great to see other manufacturers using water-based e-liquid and cleaner vape juices. This could potentially have less harmful effects in the long-term than all of the artificial sweeteners and cooling agents.
I’m sure we will probably see some disposables come with juice level gauges, so it’s easier for the user to know when their disposable is approaching depletion.
What’s next for the vaping industry?
That’s the million-dollar question. It’s also one I wish I could answer positively, but the truth is nobody knows.
We are already fighting a battle on all fronts with ridiculous flavor bans in certain countries as the tobacco industry tries to tighten its grasp.
I hope the influx of disposables doesn’t cause even more uproar. Not just with their appeal to teenagers but also the environmental angle mentioned early. Sadly, it seems inevitable.
I’m sure we will see more innovation from the big vaping brands. I hope this leans more towards improving the technology of rechargeable vape products but still making vaping more accessible to beginners.
Most of all, I hope we see more people quit smoking and transition to vaping, regardless of the device they choose to help them.