22.05.2024

Warning that vaping by children could be linked to binge drinking and cannabis use

The number of children trying vaping has soared more than 50 per cent in a year amid warnings of a link to binge drinking and cannabis use. Data shows an increase in the proportion of 11 to 17-year-olds trying vaping ‘once or twice’, from 7.7 per cent last year to 11.6 per cent this year.

Disposable vapes were the e-cigarette of choice among youngsters, and most said they purchased them from corner shops. It is illegal to sell them to under-18s but social media carries posts from teenagers showing vapes and discussing flavours such as pink lemonade, strawberry, banana and mango.

Experts have warned previously how the new generation of disposable vapes known as ‘puff bars’, which contain nicotine, have flooded the market.

The survey of 2,656 children, carried out by YouGov in March and April for Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), comes as research in the US showed teens who had vaped were at least 20 times as likely to have also tried cannabis or indulged in binge drinking.

Data shows an increase in the proportion of 11 to 17-year-olds trying vaping ‘once or twice’, from 7.7 per cent last year to 11.6 per cent this year [Stock image]

Data shows an increase in the proportion of 11 to 17-year-olds trying vaping ‘once or twice’, from 7.7 per cent last year to 11.6 per cent this year [Stock image]

When asked why they vape, 14 per cent of youngsters said they liked the flavours [File image]

When asked why they vape, 14 per cent of youngsters said they liked the flavours [File image]

The YouGov data will be submitted as part of the Government’s call for evidence on measures to reduce the number of children accessing vaping, while ensuring e-cigarettes can still be used by adults who want to quit smoking.

When asked why they vape, 40 per cent of youngsters said they just wanted to try them, 19 per cent wanted to join in with others, and 14 per cent said they liked the flavours. Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said there was a need to ‘stem the tide of child vape experimentation’, adding: ‘The Government’s investment in a crackdown on illegal underage sales of vapes is a vital first step.

‘But enforcement on its own won’t do the trick without tougher regulation to address the child-friendly promotion of these cheap and attractive products.

‘The Ash youth survey demonstrates the rapid growth of instore promotion of vapes, using brightly coloured pack displays reminiscent of cigarette displays from yesteryear. The evidence is clear –Government needs to take strong action to prevent the marketing of vapes to children.’

In the US, researchers tracked trends in the use of cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis and vaping among 50,000 13 to 18 year olds. Those who vaped nicotine were more than 20 times more likely to use cannabis compared with those who did not use nicotine.

Those who vaped and smoked were 21.6 times more likely to have participated in binge drinking on three to five occasions over a two-week period.

Lead author Noah Kreski, from New York’s Columbia University, said the findings, published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse, indicated vaping was ‘strongly tied to other substance use that can harm adolescents’.

It is illegal to sell disposable vapes to under-18s but social media carries posts from teenagers showing vapes and discussing flavours such as pink lemonade, strawberry, banana and mango [File image]

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘It’s already illegal to sell vapes to children and we are exploring further ways to tackle youth vaping through our newly launched call for evidence, which will look at the appearance and characteristics of vapes, the marketing and promotion, and the role of social media.

She added: ‘We also recently announced a new ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’ – backed by £3million – to remove illegal products from shelves and stop them from crossing our borders.’

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