The Daily Telegraph

‘Disturbing’ rise in child vapers as one in 10 uses e-cigarettes

- By Laura Donnelly HEALTH EDITOR

ALMOST one in 10 children now vapes, NHS figures show.

The official statistics show 9 per cent of school pupils aged between 11 and 15 are regularly or occasional­ly vaping, up from 6 per cent in 2018.

Doctors said the rise was “disturbing” and raised concerns about a new generation hooked on nicotine.

They said children were being targeted by companies with “bright packaging, exotic flavours and enticing names”.

The figures from NHS Digital, after a survey of more than 9,000 children, show the likelihood of using e-cigarettes rises sharply with age with almost one in five 15-year-olds vaping.

The steepest trend was seen in teenage girls, with 21 per cent of female 15-year-olds vaping, up from 10 per cent in 2018.

However, the figures show a decline in smoking. Just 3 per cent of those aged 11 to 15 were smokers, down from 5 per cent in 2018.

A leading children’s doctor said he was “deeply disturbed” by the rise in children and young people picking up e-cigarettes.

Dr Mike Mckean, consultant paediatric­ian specialisi­ng in respirator­y illnesses, said children are being “targeted by e-cigarette companies with bright packaging, exotic flavours and enticing names” and without action “we run the risk of having generation­s of children addicted to nicotine”.

Earlier this year a study by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) found that many young vapers were being influenced by social media sites, such as Tiktok and Instagram.

The study found that children were increasing­ly drawn to newer, disposable e-cigarettes that cost about £5 each and come in a wide range of fruity flavours.

Prof Ann Mcneill, professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London and author of a forthcomin­g government evidence review of e-cigarettes, said: “The rise in youth vaping is concerning and we need to understand what lies behind this, such as packaging, accessibil­ity, taste or addictiven­ess.

“Our response must be proportion­ate however, given smoking is a much bigger risk. The Government should ensure existing laws are enforced and identify where regulation­s could be extended.”

The NHS survey also found 6 per cent of pupils said they usually drank alcohol at least once a week, which is unchanged from 2018.

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