Calls for urgent action to stop North Yorkshire children vaping
Jun 26, 2023

Calls have been made for urgent action to tackle children vaping across North Yorkshire amid an “explosion” in young people using e-cigarettes.

A meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee heard the authority’s annual health and wellbeing survey concluded more than one in three of children aged 13 to 15 years old had at least tried vaping, while 9% said they used them regularly.

Smoking of traditional cigarettes was continuing to decrease and the use of illegal drugs remained low, the meeting was told, but some children were starting to vape while still at primary school.

The study found some 5% of 10 and 11-year-olds pupils responded that they had at least tried vaping.

However, councillors were warned the vaping statistics in its Growing Up In North Yorkshire study were “woefully out” and the actual prevalence of vaping was likely to be much higher.

Earlier this year Dr Mike McKean, of the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health, said vaping was becoming “an epidemic” among teenagers.

He said if the growth of youngsters vaping continued at the same rate, almost all children would vape within five years.

Dr Tom Cavell-Taylor, who is a governor at Ripon Grammar School, told the scrutiny meeting: 

“I don’t think young people appreciate the dangers of vaping.

“Vaping was seen as a better alternative to smoking, but there is a bit of a health time bomb going on with vaping and I don’t think that message is fully appreciated with young people.”

Cllr Kirsty Poskitt, who is also a youth worker, added it was “not unusual for year five and six pupils to be vaping”.

She said: 

“What I’m really concerned with is how fast the public health is getting out. I have conversations daily with young people that vape that have no clue that it is in any way dangerous.

“The parents see it as a much better, they taste and smell nice, they’re trendy, you’re not going to have that first hacking  experience of cigarettes.

“It’s a huge explosion and it’s one of my biggest concerns with young people.”

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The meeting heard councillors call for the government to step up campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of vaping in the way that it has highlighted the risks of smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol or ban the sale of single-use vapes.

Councillors said by looking at the images in the windows of vaping shops alone, it was obvious children were being targeted.

The authority’s director of children and young people’s services, Stuart Carlton, said while he appreciated the immediate need to raise of the risks of vaping, it would be worse to launch a campaign that wasn’t accurate.

He said one of the issues with tackling vaping was that “the market moves really quickly”, so it was important to get messages precise.

Mr Carlton said: 

“I would just ban them. I think they should only be available on prescription as part of a smoking reduction programme to adults only. That’s how you get them out of the system.

“Some of the things that are giving us the most concern aren’t the ones sold in shops, it’s the illegal market. These are black market vapes with cannabinoid additions which are causing horrendous incidents to children who experiment. You can do something about vaping, but then miss the thing that’s doing to most damage.”

The scrutiny committee was told public health officials were teaming up with a range of bodies, including the NHS and Trading Standards, to tackle the issue in a coordinated way.

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