WHEN Sarah first noticed sweet smells in her 14-year-old daughter Lizzie’s room, she assumed it was a new perfume.
But the mother of two was in for a shock.
Sarah* said: “I asked Lizzie* what it was and she got coy and turned a little red, which was different from her.
“I left it alone, but when I checked her school bag, I found a vape. I was in complete shock – I don’t smoke, and neither does her father.
“They really don’t look like 18, which is how old you have to be to buy them.”
One in five 15-year-olds in England use e-cigarettes, according to statistics from NHS Digital.
While an Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) study found that vaping among 11 to 17 year olds in Scotland has nearly doubled in two years, from 4% in 2020 to 7% in 2022.
The number of children who admit to having tried it has also risen, from 14 percent to 16 percent.
dr. Mike McKean, vice president of policy at the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, says more needs to be done to prevent people from starting.
He said: “I am deeply concerned by the rise of children and young people picking up e-cigarettes.
“They remain a relatively new product and their long-term effects are still unknown.”
The NHS recommends e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid as they are less harmful than cigarettes.
Vapes do not burn tobacco and do not produce tar or toxic carbon monoxide, both of which are found in tobacco smoke.
They are also designed so that you inhale nicotine rather than toxic smoke.
But nicotine is highly addictive and has been linked to increased blood pressure, heart rate and narrowing of the arteries.
Experts believe that the cute, colorful, sweet branding around vapes plays a big part in their appeal to teens.
A University College London study found that young people who had never smoked or vaped were increasingly more likely to notice e-cigarette marketing than adults who smoked.
Small disposable vape pens, which come in flavors ranging from Cotton Candy Ice to Blue Razz Lemonade and Blueberry Sour Raspberry, cost from £4 a pop, and because they don’t require charging or refilling, they can easily be thrown away at school.
Sarah, from Plymouth, believes Lizzie was sucked in by the teen-friendly packaging.
She explained: “Lizzie said she loved the donut, popcorn and marshmallow flavors and although she was relieved that I found out and promised to stop, she confessed that she liked her vape which was a golden ombre .
“The vape companies are clearly targeting these products at kids.
“There are gum, cookie, chocolate, cotton candy and millions of candy flavors — what adult would want those flavors with their nicotine?
“The vapes themselves have bright colors and are aimed at young people. They know exactly what they are doing. It’s disgusting.”
dr. Mike agrees: “It is clear that children and young people are being targeted by e-cigarette companies with clear packaging, exotic flavors and tantalizing names.
“Single use e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular among children and young people and are readily available in newsagents and candy stores.
“Nowadays there is a vape shop in almost every shopping street.
“These companies are simply interested in hooking up children and young people to make a profit. There is absolutely no thought given to their health and well-being.”
I was in complete shock – I don’t smoke, and neither does her father.
Sarah says her daughter bought her vape at a store and was not asked for ID.
She added: “There should be stricter rules. If a liquor store sold alcohol to under-18s, their alcohol license would be revoked.”
There are currently restrictions around vapes, including strict rules about how much nicotine they can contain, but Dr. Mike says more needs to be done to keep them from being attractive to kids.
He said: “It is time for the government to act by introducing regular e-cigarette packaging and nicotine and non-nicotine e-liquid packaging.
“Stricter restrictions on advertising for vaping products are also needed to ensure that these products are only advertised as a smoking reduction aid rather than a fun and colorful lifestyle product.
“If action is not taken quickly, we run the risk of generations of children becoming addicted to nicotine.”
Research has shown that young people who use e-cigarettes are twice as likely to have a chronic cough than non-users.
Vaping has also been found to decrease the function of the lungs. And in South Korea, research has shown it to be linked to gum disease.
Although Lizzie has stopped vaping, she says many of her friends have no idea about the health risks.
She added: “I didn’t know they had nicotine in them when I started.
“I’ve told my friends that they do and that they can be almost as bad for you as smoking, but I don’t think they believe me.
“They taste good and come in a nice packaging, unlike cigarette packs with rough graphics on the front.
“There are tons of kids vaping at my school and I doubt anyone knows they are really bad for you.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, says: “If you’re concerned that your teen is vaping regularly, he could be smoking too, which is much more harmful.
“Tell them that vaping is not for kids and while it can help people quit smoking, if you don’t smoke, don’t vape.”
John Dunne, Director General of the UK Vaping Industry Association, said: “The law is absolutely clear that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to vape, and we have a zero tolerance policy for anyone in our membership who sell vape products to children.
“Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous rogue traders, both online and offline.
“Our position is that if you’ve never smoked tobacco, you shouldn’t vape, and under the age of 18 you definitely shouldn’t use these products.
“We strongly condemn any marketing aimed at young people.”
How do you talk to your child about vaping?
ANTISMOKING group ASH says that when it comes to talking to your teen about e-cigarettes, it’s best to have conversations by “asking” rather than “telling.”
Here are some suggestions for different scenarios. . .
IF YOU CATCHED THEM VAPEND
- ASK them why they vape and what they think. Let them talk, express themselves and think about it. This way you will find out what is going on and how you can help them.
- Try to understand why they vape by asking questions like, “What do you like about vaping?”. Or “How do you feel about vaping?”.
And don’t forget to ask if they smoke and if so why.
- Reinforce that although you’d rather they didn’t smoke or vape, smoking is much more concerning as it is known to be highly addictive and highly harmful, while vaping is far less risky.
- Let them know that you care about them and their health and well-being.
While vaping is less harmful than smoking, it is unlikely to be completely harmless. Smokers who vape to quit should try to eventually quit vaping.
DELIVERED THEM VAPE BUT DON’T CATCH THEM
FIND the right time to talk about it. Don’t just bring it up out of thin air, take advantage of situations where you can talk about vaping. For example when you:
- see someone vape
- Get information from school about vaping
- See ads
- Walk past a vape shop
- Hear or read a media item about vaping
- Instead of assuming they vape, ask if people they know know vape and what they think. If they tell you they are vaping, see above.
- Last but not least, be patient and willing to listen.