Vapes are products for adults who to kick their cigarette smoking habit, but they’re being used by increasing numbers of children.
In the UK, it’s illegal to sell a vaping product to someone under 18 years old. It’s also illegal to buy one on their behalf. However, children and young people are still using them and this is causing concern to parents, carers, schools and wider professionals.
The addictive nature of nicotine in vapes already gives a cause for concern for children’s wellbeing. - the main chemical in vape fluids - is known to cause addiction. Young brains are particularly susceptible to the effects of nicotine, as they’re still developing. There is a risk that using addictive products in childhood may lead to more destructive addictive behaviours in adulthood.
Parents, charities, schools and health professionals have also warned about:
● Vaping as a gateway to harder drugs, such as THC and Spice
● Children being lured into selling or dealing, in return for free vapes
● As a route for children to be groomed, using the promise of free vapes
● Negative impacts on family relationships and children’s mental health
Advertising and social media
Many of the products available look like they’re designed to appeal to young people. That’s especially true of lower-cost, disposable versions. Flavours offered, such as slushie, fanta, skittles and gummy bear, are likely to appeal to children. Colourful packaging - which could easily be confused with a highlighter pen - also makes vapes interesting to under-18s.
Social media plays a role too. TikTok challenges - such as blowing the biggest smoke ring - make vaping ‘cool’. It has become a symbol of maturity, rebellion and fitting in, similar to smoking. Adverts for vaping products also appear alongside content.
Vapes are cheap - the disposable ones cost a pocket-money-friendly £5 - and readily available from shops or machines. Sellers aren’t usually as careful about checking children’s ages for vapes as they are for cigarettes. This is because they’re not seen as being harmful.
In response to development, Essex County Council have recently conducted a survey of which the Essex Wellbeing Service has been in support. We will be using the outcomes of the survey to ensure that we are delivering the right services to young people and to those supporting them.
In the meantime, here are some resources to help inform young people of the impacts of vaping:
Support for Young People who want to quit vaping
The Children's Society is one of our partners. They offer one to one or group support for young people who want to quit vaping.
Resources for parents and carers
Make sure you talk to your children about your view on vaping and the risks of vaping. It’s never too early to have age-appropriate conversations on the topic.
Get information from a reliable source that you can share with your children. We recommend:
YouGov/ASH 2022 survey: https://ash.org.uk/resources/view/use-of-e-cigarettes-among-young-people-in-great-britain
Support for Schools and professionals
In addition, resources, including lesson plans, on vaping are available to support schools in exploring the consequences of vaping and the influences that might impact young people’s behaviour relating to vaping.