'These illegal devices can kill': Warning as children targeted with black market vapes

A number of children have required urgent medical attention after using illicit devices laced with illegal drugs. Credit: Middlesbrough Council

Parents are being urged to warn their children of the dangers of potentially fatal "black market" vapes.

Middlesbrough Council has identified a huge problem in "fake vapes" reaching the hands of children in the area.

It comes as a number of children have required urgent medical attention after using illicit devices laced with illegal drugs.

One young person needed immediate treatment with Naloxone, a medication to treat opiate overdoses, after using a counterfeit vape.

NHS bosses are now urging families to be vigilant and learn how to spot an illegal vape.

Mark Adams, the Joint Director of Public Health for the South Tees area, said: “Our immediate advice to parents and carers is make sure you know how to spot an illegal vape.

“They often look similar to legal devices, but the fact they hold more puffs or a greater amount of vaping liquid is a tell-tale sign that they’re not safe or legal.

“We simply do not know what these devices are being filled with, and neither does your child.

“But what we do know is that young people across the UK have been falling seriously ill after inhaling drugs like Spice and Nitazenes, which is a synthetic drug similar to heroin, but many times more potent.

“The truth is these illegal devices can kill.”

How to spot an illegal vape

All legitimate disposable vape bars should be sold in a box, with a sealed packet inside containing the device, and an advice leaflet. According to VapeUK, this packaging must clearly show the following:

  • Nicotine health warning (unless nicotine free)

  • Nicotine content (which must be no higher than 20mg/2%)

  • Nicotine dose per puff (unless nicotine free)

  • Puff count (which should be under 700 puffs)

  • Ingredient list (which shouldn’t list colourings, taurine, or caffeine)

  • Batch number

  • Expiry date

  • E-liquid capacity (which should be no higher than 2ml in vape products that contain nicotine)

  • Hazard statements

  • ECID number

Vapes containing nicotine are used to help adults quit smoking tobacco, with a legal age for use and purchase of 18.

As well as health dangers, illegal vapes are linked to organised crime and exploitation.

Cleveland Police say they have previously seized dozens of illicit vapes from young people. It is believed they are filled by dealers who then use Snapchat and other social media apps to sell them.

As part of a multi-agency response; Public Health South Tees are working with police, NHS trusts, Teesside University, Trading Standards and local schools to address the issue.

Mayor Chris Cooke, Middlesbrough Council, said: “This is not just a local problem, but I’m pleased to see our dedicated public health teams being proactive to warn young people and their families about this real and very urgent risk.

“We have staff going into schools and meeting headteachers, while frontline professionals have been trained to use life-saving Naloxone medication.

“Our Trading Standards team in Middlesbrough has also been leading the way over the past 12 months in seizing illegal vapes and getting court orders to close down those premises selling them.”

Cleveland Police are urging anyone with information about the supply of vapes to call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously either online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org or by calling 0800 555 111.

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