The vapes as strong as 125 cigarettes: Health fears over new craze among young people for super-strength nicotine devices
- Children are buying super-strength vapes – equivalent to smoking 125 cigarettes
- Most concern is focused on super-strong Geek Bar Pro products costing up to £7
- High doses of nicotine can affect teenagers’ brain development
Published: | Updated:
Children are buying super-strength vapes – equivalent to smoking 125 cigarettes – in a craze sparking health fears.
They are so powerful that young users have reported lengthy nosebleeds, coughing up blood, headaches, chest pains and dizzy spells.
More than 53,000 of the Geek Bars brand are sold every week in shops – up from around 2,000 in May – despite many having more than twice the legal level of nicotine, industry figures leaked to the Daily Mail show.
Thousands more are believed to be bought online.
Children are buying super-strength vapes – equivalent to smoking 125 cigarettes – in a craze sparking health fears
While it is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s, social media is rife with posts from teenagers – and some even younger children – describing the vapes which come in flavours including fruit, bubble gum and ice cream.
The hashtag #geekbar has had 46million views on TikTok including videos praising ‘yummy flavours’ and joking about being ‘addicted’ to the devices which are like ‘crack’.
But most concern is focused on super-strong Geek Bar Pro products – which cost between £5 and £7.
High doses of nicotine can affect teenagers’ brain development.
Last night experts warned vaping was a ‘huge crisis for young people’ and called for action. TikTok also launched an investigation after being alerted by the Mail and pledged to ban accounts and remove videos that promoted the possession or consumption of the products by minors.
A range of Geek Bar vapes are on sale in the UK, some of which follow government regulations. But one of its highest-selling products is the Geek Bar Pro, many of which have a nicotine level of 5 per cent, more than double the UK legal limit of 2 per cent.
The Mail was this week able to buy the Geek Bar Pros with 5 per cent nicotine in shops around the country, including in Bristol, Leeds and Kent. The vapes are also available online and are promoted on social media including to children.
Most concern is focused on super-strong Geek Bar Pro products – which cost between £5 and £7. High doses of nicotine can affect teenagers’ brain development. A stock image is used above [File photo]
One seller posted a video to its 18,000 TikTok followers boasting of its ‘discreet packaging’ showing them being hidden in Kinder Surprise egg boxes. With sales exploding over the summer there are fears of a new surge as schools reopen.
One TikTok user said he tried them in Year 7 – where pupils are 11 or 12 – and regretted it. Another boy joked that he was about to start Year 10 and did not know the difference between a verb and an adjective, but was addicted to Geek Bars. A Facebook post last month on the ‘reality’ of Geek Bars went viral. It said: ‘I’m having nose bleeds and sicking up blood. This is happening to so many people I know.’
In the UK, Geek Bar Pro bars are sold with a nicotine strength of 2 per cent and 5 per cent, which according to the company’s website equates to the nicotine content of 125 cigarettes.
They are also not listed on the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency register. Retailers are only allowed to sell notified or approved products.
It is not clear how Geek Bar Pros, which would be legal in some other parts of the world, are being exported to the UK. Geek Bar did not respond to a request for comment. On its website it says it works with a range of wholesalers.
Andrew Bush, professor of paediatrics at Imperial College London, warned that vaping was a ‘huge crisis for young people.’
He said: ‘This is hooking young kids and making them nicotine addicts. It’s really, really worrying.’
And he cited the case of Ewan Fisher, a British teenager who had to be put on life support after respiratory failure linked to e-cigarettes, which he started using at 16.
He added: ‘Nobody knows exactly what substances are in these liquids. I cannot see how putting hot, unregulated chemicals in your lungs is anything other than a bad idea.’
Deborah Arnott, of campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, said: ‘Action is needed now to get these products off shop shelves and to hit those who sell them hard with the full penalties allowed by law.’
A government spokesman said products that did not meet MHRA requirements were subject to local trading standards enforcement. He added: ‘We continue to monitor this and will consider if further regulatory and legal action is required.’