Experts are raising concerns about the UK government’s approach to e-cigarettes, claiming that the country’s youth are now facing a vaping epidemic. While the NHS and the government encourage smokers aged 18 and over to use vaping as a tool to quit smoking, other countries are taking a more cautious approach. Australia, for example, has recently announced a ban on imports of disposable vapes to combat nicotine addiction among children.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled plans to address the child vaping epidemic, considering a ban on child-friendly flavors and packaging that entice kids to vape. However, experts question why the UK has been so eager to promote e-cigarettes with fewer restrictions than other countries.
In 2018, Public Health England (PHE), now known as The UK Health Security Agency, faced criticism for its complacency in response to the rise of vaping in US high schools. Despite warnings of a potential epidemic of lung disease, the UK’s health organization insisted on having some of the strictest regulations for e-cigarettes in the world. A blog from PHE in 2018, updated in February 2019, even claimed that there was no evidence linking vaping to an increased likelihood of young people smoking.
However, shocking data presented at a Lancashire County Council meeting revealed that children as young as eight are now vaping. One in six teenagers in the area are regular vapers, nearly triple the proportion in 2020. Concerns among doctors include the potential for lung disease, dental issues, and even cancer in individuals who started vaping at a young age. Hospital admission rates for vaping-related disorders in under-20s have increased six-fold in the past two years.
The UK government has acknowledged the need for action to address youth vaping. Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, called for a clampdown on companies that target children with colorful flavored e-cigarettes. He emphasized the importance of reducing vaping among youngsters.
Research indicates that social media platforms like TikTok influence the use of e-cigarettes among children. Disposable e-cigarettes have gained popularity due to their affordability, wide range of colors, and fruity flavors.
Experts are now urging the government to act before the vaping epidemic becomes endemic among young people. Measures such as restricting the availability of vapes, including flavors, packaging, and disposable vapes, are being considered.