Moldova Faces Alarming Surge in Youth E-Cigarette Use, Study Reveals

Moldova youth e-cigarette use epidemic

A recent study conducted by the Moldovan Pediatric Society has uncovered a disturbing trend in the Republic of Moldova: an epidemic of e-cigarette use among young people. The 2023 study, which surveyed 530 teenagers aged 10 to 16, found that an astounding 36% of participants use disposable e-cigarettes, also known as vapes. Pulmonologist Olimpia Gherman attributes the popularity of these products among youth to their affordable prices, appealing flavors, and the ease of purchasing them online without proper regulation.

The Allure of Disposable Vapes

Disposable vapes are small, self-contained devices that come pre-filled with nicotine liquid or nicotine salts and feature a fully charged battery. These devices are designed to be discarded once the “puffs” are exhausted, as the battery cannot be recharged and there is no way to refill the nicotine liquid. Most disposable vapes are activated simply by inhalation, without the need for buttons. While they come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, all disposable vapes are addictive and pose significant health risks to teenagers.

Several factors contribute to the popularity of disposable vapes among teenagers and children, including:

  1. Low cost
  2. Availability and the ability to purchase without age verification
  3. Sweet, enticing flavors
  4. Discreet design that is easy to conceal
  5. Simplicity of use

Violations of Tobacco Control Act

Online sellers, both individuals and legal entities, are violating the Tobacco Control Act by offering disposable electronic cigarettes with discounts, cashbacks, and without the required excise stamps or health warnings. These products often exceed the permissible concentration and volume of nicotine. Disposable vapes are actively promoted through Telegram channels and Tik-Tok, further enticing young people to try them.

The Environmental Impact

In addition to the health concerns, disposable vapes also pose a significant threat to the environment. In 2023, seven waste management and recycling associations collectively called for a ban on the sale of disposable e-cigarettes by the end of 2024, citing their negative impact on the environment and the goals of a circular economy.

Global Efforts to Ban Disposable Vapes

Recognizing the growing problem of disposable vape use among youth, several countries have taken steps to ban or restrict the sale of these products. New Zealand and the UK banned disposable vapes in 2023, while France and Australia have laws in place this year. Belgium plans to implement a ban in 2025, and Poland has recently initiated the process to do the same.

Protecting Youth in Moldova

Pulmonologist and director of MedClub Prim, Olympia German, highlights the disparity between adult and youth e-cigarette use, stating that in countries like the Philippines, Romania, Ukraine, and Uruguay, the percentage of adults who currently use e-cigarettes ranges from 0.2-3.4%, while among young people, this figure is significantly higher at 8.2-18.4%.

In 2021, Moldova made changes to the Tobacco Control Act to regulate disposable e-cigarettes, including nicotine content, text health warnings, tax stamps, and online sales. However, Olympia Herman notes that while the law is strict, its implementation and supervision are lacking.

The Moldovan government has proposed increasing the excise tax on disposable e-cigarettes by 15% as part of the Fiscal Policy for 2025, but Herman believes the increase should be closer to 50%, with prices starting from 500 lei to deter minors from accessing these harmful products.

As the epidemic of disposable e-cigarette use among youth continues to grow, it is crucial for the Moldovan government and parliament to take decisive action to protect the health and well-being of the nation’s young people.

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Matthew Ma