Teen vaping becoming an ‘epidemic’ across UK


leading UK doctor has warned the use of vapes and e-cigarettes by teenagers is a “new epidemic”.

Dr Mike McKean, vice-president of policy for the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health, said vaping was becoming a rising issue for teens.

Despite being the sale of vapes being illegal to under-18s, he said Dr McKean said large numbers of teens are vaping at schools across the country.

“This is a problem the UK should take seriously. Walk past a school at closing time and you’ll see what happens – large numbers of children vaping,” he told The Guardian.

“That’s huge amounts of children spending money on products that are not cheap, and they’re inhaling chemicals we don’t know the long-term effects of. There can be large amounts of nicotine, especially in vapes from overseas, and children are becoming addicted to a drug.”

The selling of vapes to under-18s is illegal but recent data showed reported use of e-cigarettes rose to nine per cent among 11 to 15-year-olds in England with vaping among 15-year-old girls going from 10 per cent in 2018 to 21 per cent in 2021.

Tony McCabe, from St Joseph’s RC High School in Bolton, said his pupils got vapes from “the black market” but insisted the problem was not a local one.

“Children in this area are no different than children all over the country,” he told the BBC. “There is a problem nationally.

“It’s a new pandemic that will grow unless we make enough noise…to make sure that young people are not at the centre of that market.”

NHS advice states the devices, which allow users to inhale nicotine in a vapour rather than smoke, can help adult smokers quite but stresses the vapour still contains small amounts of nicotine.

Vapes are considered less harmful than cigarettes but not a lot is currently known about the long term effects of their use.

New research published this week showed putting vapes in plain packaging reduces their appeal to children and could even stop them taking up vaping in the first place.

Researchers discovered removing bright colours, pictures and fancy lettering from packaging made youngsters less likely to be attracted to vaping, but did not deter adults who wanted to use them to quit cigarettes.

It is the first major study of its kind looking at how vaping packaging appeals to youngsters.

Research published last July found the proportion of children vaping is on the rise, with many being influenced by social media sites including TikTok.

Newer, disposable e-cigarettes are increasing in popularity, in part because they cost around £5 each and come in a wide range of colours and fruity flavours.

While it is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s, social media carries posts from teenagers showing vapes and discussing flavours such as pink lemonade, strawberry banana and mango.