Ministers urged to probe whether vapes are pushed on teens as gateway to smoking

In the UK, it is currently illegal for under-18s to buy vapes.

The government must investigate whether vapes are being pushed on underage teenagers as a gateway to smoking, a former health minister has said.

Concerns over under-18s using vapes having increased over the past few years, as two ITV News reports have found.

This year, a public health charity said it was "inappropriate" that young influencers on social media sites were promoting vapes to their agemates. Doctors also told ITV News they were worried that vapes are being marketed towards teenagers.

In the UK, it is currently illegal for under-18s to buy vapes.

ITV News' Jocelyn Evans explores whether it is too easy for under-18s to get vapes through TikTok

On Tuesday, Conservative MP Maggie Throup told MPs in the House of Commons: “It is illegal for a retailer, whether online or on the high street, to sell vaping products to anyone under the age of 18, so I question how these underage users are obtaining these devices.

“The manufacturers are obviously aiming some of their marketing at this age range by use of cartoon characters, a rainbow of colours, and flavours to match.

“The purpose of e-cigarettes should be purely as an aid to quit smoking, not, as I fear, as a fashion accessory and potentially as a first step to take up smoking.”

The Erewash MP said she was concerned that vapes were becoming an “industry in their own right, now being used by tobacco companies to maintain their own profits as restrictions on tobacco increase”.

During the backbench debate, Ms Throup called on ministers to “see what more can be done to clamp down on the illegal supply of vapes to those under the age of 18”, and also joined other MPs in asking when they can expect a tobacco control plan to be published.

A recent survey of children, carried out for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found that the proportion of children aged 11 to 17 currently vaping has jumped from 4% in 2020 to 7% in 2022.

In 2013, just 3% of children aged 11 to 15 had ever vaped, but this rose to 8% in 2020 and 10% in 2022.

In September, a King’s College study concluded that smokers who switch to vapes will have a substantial reduction in their exposure to toxins that promote cancer, lung disease and cardiovascular disease.

But it said people who have never smoked should not take up vaping as it was not free from risks.

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