County council plans programme to tackle children being ‘enticed’ to vape
Last updated Mar 3, 2023

A public health boss has revealed how an educational programme to counter the social media marketing of vaping products to children was being developed, amid growing concerns about the number of youngsters being “enticed” into using e-cigarettes.

Cllr Michael Harrison, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for health and adult services, announced the move following the leader of Selby District Council questioning what action could be taken to reverse an apparent escalation in children vaping.

Cllr Mark Crane told a meeting of the county authority he was seeing more and more young people using vaping products, adding: 

“I see them in school uniforms and I also see ones that seem very young to me.”

A NHS survey in 2013 of 10,000 children found three per cent of children aged 11 to 15 had vaped, but last year the figure had risen to 10%.

Cllr Crane was speaking days after England’s chief medical officer called for a clampdown on firms who use social media sites, such as Tik Tok, to market colourful e-cigarettes with flavours such as pink lemonade and strawberry, banana and mango to youngsters.

Sir Chris Whitty told MPs it was beyond doubt that firms were designing vapes to appeal to children, branding their actions “appalling”.

It is believed e-cigarettes have increased in popularity with children due to their relatively low cost, bright colours and fruit flavours.

Last month, the leader of neighbouring council Stockton, Councillor Bob Cook said the authority would lobby for more regulation on vaping following concerns over growing under-age use of the products.

Meanwhile, Dr Elizabeth Garthwaite, a kidney specialist and clinical director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, has told teenagers at Ripon Grammar School that an increasing numbers of young people were presenting to hospital with problems associated with addiction and vaping.

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She said while vaping products were initially designed as a nicotine replacement to help smokers break their addiction, vaping was far from harmless.

Cllr Harrison said there was “certainly something national government could do” to tackle the marketing, but the council was intent on educating people about the dangers of vaping.

He said: 

“It is illegal to sell vape materials to under-18s, but it is clear that there is marketing going on that is enticing under-18s to take up vaping…”

The meeting was told the authority’s public health team were working on a programme of education and awareness which would be rolled out across our schools and young people in the coming months.

Cllr Harrison said the authority recognised the place of e-cigarettes in helping people to give up smoking, but the council’s educational campaign would stress that neither habit was healthy.

Underlining the scale of the challenge to educate young people, he added: 

“You are fighting a battle if there’s advertising that is more prevalent on social media than mainstream media.”