It is not hard now-a-days to see someone vaping, in fact, you may not notice it but as you look around, there are a lot less people smoking cigarettes in the street.
This sounds like a great thing and it is, but the alternative may also be damaging to those who didn’t need to take up the habit in the first place. After all, vaping and electronic cigarettes were originally marketed as ways for people who smoke to quit.
According to recent data, the percentage of children who have tried vaping has increased among 11 to 17 year olds by 50%, going from 7.7% to 11.6% in 2022/2023.
What is vaping?
When you use a small, portable device (such as e-cigarette, a vape pen, or a mod) to inhale a nicotine and flavouring (e-liquid) mist, you are said to be vaping. Vaping is comparable to smoking a cigarette, but instead of burning tobacco, it heats microscopic particles out of a liquid.
It’s also known as an electronic cigarette or e-cigarette. Vape “juice” or e-liquid frequently has flavours, a lot of them sweet and therefore appealing to children.
While the use of colouring has already been banned, this ban does not apply to disposable e-cigarettes, which can be purchased for a reasonable price and come in a variety of nice flavours. They are currently the most widely used kind of electronic cigarette among teenagers.
What causes children to start vaping?
Peer pressure, the notion that vaping makes you look cool, the desire to slim down, accessibility, the presence of tobacco users in the family or as role models, as well as curiosity, are just a few of the reasons why children start vaping.
Other explanations might be:
- rebellion (vaping as a sign of defying authority)
- stress relief (when anxiety rises, children can turn to vaping)
- being popular and having a good time (despite though vaping is not permitted in the majority of indoor and outdoor spaces)
- Children who have vaping friends are much more likely to use vaping items themselves
- a way of living that involves fun, thrills, risk, or bravery
How do children get exposed?
Children get introduced to e-cigarettes through promotional activities, friends, family, seeing them being used in public places and schools. Online and television advertisements for e-cigarettes are seen by children.
In the UK, it is against the law to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18, but you can order them online. Following a dramatic increase in videos on TikTok and Instagram, social media influencers may no longer be allowed to advocate for vaping among teens as there is a growing fear that teenagers are becoming addicted to nicotine through the use of vapes.
Vaping and children: Should we be concerned?
As ministers promise to fix a loophole that permits businesses to distribute free samples of vapes to youngsters in England, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has deeply expressed his concern about the rise in children who are vaping.
Disposable vapes seem to be a popular e-cigarette among young children. Experts have already warned that a new generation of nicotine-containing single-use vaporizers, so-called “puff bars,” are flooding the market.
In 2021, a child was the least likely to currently smoke an e-cigarette (7.7%), but in 2022 they were the most likely to use smoke an e-cigarette (52%), and this proportion is thought to increase to 69% by 2023.
Why is vaping harmful to children?
- The nicotine in most e-cigarettes is addictive and can impair brain development. The more children vape, the more difficult it becomes to quit. Nicotine use by children can damage parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. Some e-cigarettes marketed as nicotine-free have been found to contain nicotine.
- Every time a new memory is made or a new skill is learned, synapses, are formed between brain cells. Children’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Nicotine changes the way these synapses form.
- Childhood nicotine use may also increase the risk of future substance use disorders.
- Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include vomiting, sweating, dizziness, rapid heart rate, lethargy, seizures, and difficulty breathing.
- Vapour from e-cigarettes are harmful to developing lungs. In fact, research shows long-term effects on lung health, function and development.
- “E-Liquids” may also contain carcinogenic chemicals, heavy metals and ultrafine particles that can reach deep into the lungs. E-cigarette solutions and vapours contain harmful chemicals such as antifreeze (made with one or two chemicals: propylene glycol or ethylene glycol), diethylene glycol and aldehydes (such as formaldehyde).
Vaping and mental health
- When a child becomes addicted to nicotine and stops using nicotine, the body and brain have to adapt not to ingest nicotine. This can lead to irritability, restlessness, anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating and cravings for nicotine.
- Teenage e-cigarette use is thought to be associated with mental health symptoms such as depression. Poor mental health is children can lead to more serious problems as they get older.
It is important to note that there are children’s charities in the UK who are dealing with the influx of poor children’s mental health, some of which can be attributed to the use of e-cigarettes and vaping.
What can I do to help my child?
You are not alone if you are concerned about your child vaping, whether this is at home, school, or when hanging out with friends. Speak out and don’t be hesitant to ask questions.
Millions of UK households are coping with this issue and there is support and advice available to parents to help them stop their kids from vaping. Children should be provided with the facts on vapes to understand the risks.
- Talk to your child or teen about why e-cigarettes are harmful for them. Get the Talk With Your Teen About E-cigarettes tip sheet for parents. Start the conversation early with children about why e-cigarettes are harmful for them. It’s never too late.
- Set up an appointment with your child’s health care provider so that they can hear from a medical professional about the health risks of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
- Seek professional help.
Children’s commissioner Rachel de Souza said child vaping is one of her priorities for the coming year as she has real concerns about the rise, especially as we don’t yet know enough about the long-term impact this is having on children’s physical health.
According to her “children have told her they want a healthy lifestyle and they know it’s important. Therefore, we urgently need to learn lessons from the past and ensure that there is stricter regulation of the e-cigarette industry as a whole, which it will look to.”
However, any future policy or regulation needs to focus on cutting sources of supply to underage children and dealing with the fraudulent operators. It is important to protect children and young people from consuming or being exposed to the harmful vapor from e-cigarettes.