Anna Trapido: Not that healthy and the flavours are vile – so why do people vape?

By , 5 March 2019



VapingIt seems as if every shopping centre in the country now has a stall or store packed with teeny tiny bottles of those liquids that attach to e-cigarettes. The aforementioned liquids are heated to a vapour and the resultant aerosol is inhaled and exhaled. Hence the verb to vape.

I am not normally a smoker of any sort but I have long been fascinated by the plethora of food and drink related e-cigarette liquid flavours. Every time I walk past the shop in my local mall I wonder. So, this week I stopped wondering and started vaping up a storm. Given my lack of experience with such stuff, there was quite a lot of coughing and spluttering too.  

Don’t try this at home folks. I did myself damage so you don’t have to. Medical researchers are still in the early stages of assessing the potential health hazards of vaping but it is incumbent upon me to remind readers that these cute little bottles can and often do contain nicotine. Plus, there are potential toxins in some of the flavouring ingredients. Recent studies seem to show very bad things happening to mice when they vape to excess. Other investigations have found fruit flavours to be toxic for tadpoles.

I knew all of the above but curiosity and the pull of food flavoured vape liquids overcame my concerns. Essentially, I wanted to know whether I could recognize the flavours without looking at the label. So, I conducted a (somewhat tongue in cheek) taste test. I got the über-obvious ones (cherry, cola, orange) right but not much else. 

I am proud to say that I was spot on with blue cheese vape juice which was unsettlingly accurate and also an absolute abomination. I also correctly identified espresso flavoured vape liquid as coffee but not in a good way. Anyone who has ever tried to drink old takeaway coffee once it has spent an afternoon oxidizing in a hot car will recognize that taste. I was almost right about buttered popcorn flavour (I said butter). Other near misses were saying cinnamon for what was meant to be pumpkin pie and vanilla for birthday cake.

After that, I became increasingly inaccurate. I couldn’t tell the difference between bacon and beer. Milk flavour utterly eluded me. The man in the shop had sold out of Merlot flavour so I couldn’t try that and I didn’t sample the vape liquids labelled unicorn or stoned Smurf (yes, that is a real flavour) because I didn’t know how to measure epicurean accuracy when it came to mythical beasts or cartoon characters. Also, I was feeling quite sick.

The mouse and tadpole scientific study subjects had no choice in the matter but, having vaped up a storm, I cannot understand what drives uncoerced human vapers. E-cigarettes are often used by those trying to quit ‘real’ cigarettes. Since a side effect, the aforementioned cancer sticks can be smell and taste dysfunction, I can only imagine it is this that allows them to tolerate the vileness that is vaping.

  • Dr Anna Trapido was trained as an anthropologist at King’s College Cambridge and a chef at the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine. She has twice won the World Gourmand Cookbook Award. She has made a birthday cake for Will Smith, a Christmas cake for Nelson Mandela and cranberry scones for Michelle Obama. She is in favour of Champagne socialism and once swallowed a digital watch by mistake.


5 comment(s)

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    Joanne Gibson | 11 March 2019

    As this New York Times article suggests, ‘vaping has brought smoking back into vogue for teenagers’, and those smurf and unicorn as well as vanilla and buttered popcorn flavours suggest pretty strongly that teenagers (the younger the better) are their target market.
    ‘Most people who don’t start smoking by the end of adolescence never will. The cigarette makers knew that.’ The e-cig makers know that too…
    In short, according to the article, vaping is Big Tobacco’s latest ‘bait and switch’. The result ‘may be another generation exposed to the same addiction we are still fighting’.

    Colin Harris | 6 March 2019

    Smoking to me is quite possibly the most disgusting thing you can do to yourself and to others around you. Doing something voluntary that make you stink is bizarre. Why don’t you just crap in your pants? Same result – you stink! At least crapping in your pants is a natural body function, unlike smoking!

    Tim James | 6 March 2019

    When I eventually managed to give up smoking many years ago, a small part of the method/process I used (I forget its proprietary name) was to imagine how unutterably absurd, to an observer, is the whole business of sticking a paper tube of tobacco in a mouth, lighting it, etc etc. But I still often enjoy getting a whiff of the evil smoke from current victims and remembering the strangely profound pleasure of that first racking cough of the day. But when I get a whiff of those vulgar, ersatz electronic vapours, I am filled with incredulity and pity. Couldn’t they at least have a cigarette flavour? (Perhaps they do, but it mostly seems to be peppermint; I’m further bewildered to learn that there are all these others.)

    Yves | 5 March 2019

    I am sure you had fun writing and researching for this article…
    Maybe you should try Shisha pipes as well and compare. LOL

    Gemma | 5 March 2019

    You are selfless person to carry out this research for us curious folk.
    It is beyond funny that people are sucking this stuff in.
    To think that I would never have known how vile this vaping is without you
    embarking on this sacrificial mission.
    Bless you.

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