You will be aware that the world is concerned about the evolving use of e-cigarettes by young people. We know these more commonly as vapes, and there is a whole industry that has developed to support vaping.
You will know from the press that schools across the country are worried for our young people about this and we have already added information on this to our curriculum to educate our students. The information below will help you to understand why we all do need to be concerned about this and how you as parents and carers can support our young people in this community to understand the health and other risks that accompany vapes.
- Vaping is not harmless.
- Vaping can increase your exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Vaping can lead to nicotine addiction.
- The long-term consequences of vaping are unknown.
- It’s rare, but defective vaping products (especially batteries) may catch fire or explode, leading to burns and injuries.
- From October 2015 a minimum age of sale for e-cigarettes of 18 was introduced in England and Wales, making it illegal to sell e-cigarettes containing nicotine to under 18s or to purchase them on behalf of under 18s
- Most vapes contain nicotine.
- Some contain very high amounts of nicotine.
- Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical.
- Young people are especially susceptible to its negative effects, as it can alter their brain development and can affect memory and concentration.
- It can also lead to addiction and physical dependence.
- Children and young people may become dependent on nicotine more rapidly than adults.
- Quitting vaping can be challenging once anyone has developed an addiction to nicotine. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant.
- The ingredients typically found in vaping liquids include glycerol, flavours, propylene glycol and varying levels of nicotine. The long-term safety of inhaling these substances in vaping products is unknown and continues to be assessed.
- The heating process can cause reactions and create new chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Some contaminants, such as metals, might also get into the vaping products and then into the aerosol.
Vaping products can be difficult to recognise:
- Devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and some resemble a USB flash drive.
- Liquids can have high levels of nicotine and come in a variety of flavours.
- Vaping may not leave a lingering identifiable smell.
- Add-ons like vinyl “skins” or wraps can also make these items harder to recognise.
- The maybe referred to as vape pens, vapes, mods, tanks, and bars.
Who is vaping?
- Data collected in the UK June 2022
- A large majority of 11–17-year-olds have never tried or are unaware of e-cigarettes (83.8%).
- In 2022, 15.8% of 11–17-year-olds had tried vaping, compared to 11.2% in 2021 and 13.9% in 2020.
- In 2022, 7.0% of 11–17-year-olds were current users, compared to 3.3% in 2021 and 4.1% in 2020.
- Children under 16 are least likely to try e-cigarettes. 10.4% of 11–15-year-olds have tried vaping, compared to 29.1% of 16–17-year-olds. Among 18-year-olds 40.8% report having tried an e-cigarette.
- Use among 11–17-year-olds who have never smoked remains low and largely experimental, while 7.5% of never smokers have tried an e-cigarette in 2022 only 1.7% report at least monthly use.
Where are they getting their vapes from?
- In 2022 for the first time, the most frequently used product was a disposable vape (52.0% compared to 7.7% in 2021), with the most popular brands by far being Elf Bar and Geek Bar.
- The main source for both cigarettes and e-cigarettes is shops. 51.9% of 11–17-year-olds get their cigarettes from shops and 46.5% get their e-cigarettes from shops.
- The next most common source was being given them, at 39.3% for cigarettes, 43.0% for e-cigarettes.
- Online purchases of e-cigarettes (10.0%) are much more common than cigarettes (4.0%), while street markets are a more common source of cigarettes (10.9%) than e-cigarettes (6.5%).
- Young people tend to be given their first cigarette (73.5%) and their first e-cigarette (69.4%), most frequently by peers.
- Our young people at the College tell us they buy them locally or from friends who purchase them in bulk. We have also worked with the police over adults offering to buy them for young people.
Promotion and marketing of vapes
- Many vape manufacturers target their marketing to online platforms.
- The flavours seem to be deliberately targeted at young people. The most frequently used e-cigarette flavouring for young people is ‘fruit flavour’ chosen by 56.7% of current e-cigarette users. The next most popular flavour is from the ‘other flavour’ category (a wide variety including ‘chocolate, desserts, sweet, or candy, alcoholic drink, energy drink and soft drink flavour’) chosen by 16.2%, followed by ‘menthol/mint flavour’, chosen by 9.2%.
- Other governments have some very active campaigns against vaping, this is a video produced by the Canadian Lung association.
What is the College doing about the issue of vaping?
- Clear lessons on the hazards of vaping and addiction in Lesson 42.
- Redesigned toilet areas - so washing areas are visible from outside.
- Monitoring of toilet areas.
- Searches of students who may be bringing vapes to College.
- Scale of sanctions for students starting as a supportive measure to help them understand the potential harm.
- Liaising with the local police with reference to young people involved in the supply of vapes to other young people.
What can parents and carers do?
- Take advantage of situations where you can talk about vaping. It doesn’t have to be formal. For example, when passing by a group of people who are vaping, take the opportunity to have a conversation with your child about it. Discuss the facts and correct any misconceptions.
- Children endure tremendous social pressure, which makes it easier for teens to fall victim to vaping. Avoiding peer pressure to vape might not be an easy task, but it’s far easier than having to withdraw from addiction.
- Keep in mind that talking about it can also set the stage for important discussions about tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, drugs and other risky behaviours
- If your child is vaping, ask your doctors' surgery to talk with you and your child about the risks of vaping and ways to be smoke and vape-free.
- If you are aware of retailers selling vapes to young people please report it to trading standards.