Home Health news Highlighter or vape, can YOU tell the difference? How ‘gateway’ e-cigs are purposely being marketed to lure kids – as Victoria Atkins says incoming ban will help ‘children avoid the horrendous pull of a nicotine habit’

Highlighter or vape, can YOU tell the difference? How ‘gateway’ e-cigs are purposely being marketed to lure kids – as Victoria Atkins says incoming ban will help ‘children avoid the horrendous pull of a nicotine habit’

by Editor

Victoria Atkins today claimed a ban on disposable vapes would help kids ‘avoid the horrendous pull of a nicotine habit’. 

The Health Secretary insisted the Government’s tough anti-vaping plans, set to be officially unveiled by Rishi Sunak later today, would help thwart the UK’s child e-cig epidemic.

Under the same crackdown, shops will only be able to sell vapes in a limited number of flavours and in plain, tobacco-style packaging. 

E-cigarettes will be required to be displayed out of sight, and new ‘on the spot’ fines will be brought in for shops which sell vapes illegally to children.

Asked about the incoming efforts, Ms Atkins said it would ‘help ensure people don’t start smoking in the first place’. 

Vapes, which are currently sold for as little as £3, have been compared to highlighter pens because of the snazzy displays in shops across the UK. Brands such as Elf Bar and Lost Mary are hugely popular among teenagers. The number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled. Figures show nine per cent of children aged 11 to 15 now vape, with the long-term health impacts still unknown

Vapes, which are currently sold for as little as £3, have been compared to highlighter pens because of the snazzy displays in shops across the UK. Brands such as Elf Bar and Lost Mary are hugely popular among teenagers. The number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled. Figures show nine per cent of children aged 11 to 15 now vape, with the long-term health impacts still unknown

Shock data earlier this year revealed a record 11.6 per cent of 11 to 17-year-olds in Britain have now tried vaping. This is up on 7.7 per cent last year and twice as high as rates seen a decade ago, before the UK's kid vaping epidemic blew up

Shock data earlier this year revealed a record 11.6 per cent of 11 to 17-year-olds in Britain have now tried vaping. This is up on 7.7 per cent last year and twice as high as rates seen a decade ago, before the UK’s kid vaping epidemic blew up

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins insisted the Government's tough anti-vaping plans, set to be officially unveiled by Rishi Sunak later today, would help thwart the UK's child e-cig epidemic. Pictured, Ms Atkins appearing on BBC Breakfast today

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins insisted the Government’s tough anti-vaping plans, set to be officially unveiled by Rishi Sunak later today, would help thwart the UK’s child e-cig epidemic. Pictured, Ms Atkins appearing on BBC Breakfast today

Rishi Sunak said that the ban on disposable vapes — set to be enforced by early 2025 — was balanced and the 'right' action. The PM told broadcasters: 'You talk to any parent or teacher, they’ll talk to you about the worrying rise in vaping among children. Children shouldn’t be vaping, we don’t want them to get addicted, we still don’t understand the full long-term health impacts of vaping. So it is right we take strong action to stamp this out'

Rishi Sunak said that the ban on disposable vapes — set to be enforced by early 2025 — was balanced and the ‘right’ action. The PM told broadcasters: ‘You talk to any parent or teacher, they’ll talk to you about the worrying rise in vaping among children. Children shouldn’t be vaping, we don’t want them to get addicted, we still don’t understand the full long-term health impacts of vaping. So it is right we take strong action to stamp this out’

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What I think has shocked a lot of parents is how cynically the companies have marketed their products towards children and young people.’

Ms Atkins criticised the marketing of vapes with flavours like bubblegum and candy floss, and slammed the ‘very bright colours of the packaging’. 

Vapes, which are currently sold for as little as £3, have been compared to highlighter pens because of the snazzy displays in shops across the UK. 

Brands such as Elf Bar and Lost Mary are hugely popular among teenagers. 

The number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled. Figures show nine per cent of children aged 11 to 15 now vape, with the long-term health impacts still unknown.

This is despite sales of e-cigarettes to under-18s being banned.

Experts have welcomed the move and said they ‘fully support’ the approach and were ‘extremely pleased’ to see restrictions on packaging.

But others have also cautioned that ‘legislation in this area should be nuanced and careful’, given vaping can help people who smoke tobacco cigarettes to quit.

Health campaigners have long called for much tougher regulations on marketing to children and a tax on the disposable vapes.

Mr Sunak said that the ban on disposable vapes — set to be enforced by early 2025 — was balanced and the ‘right’ action.

The PM told broadcasters: ‘You talk to any parent or teacher, they’ll talk to you about the worrying rise in vaping among children.

‘Children shouldn’t be vaping, we don’t want them to get addicted, we still don’t understand the full long-term health impacts of vaping. 

So it is right we take strong action to stamp this out.’

He rejected concerns that the move could backfire and lead to more people taking up tobacco.

NHS Digital data, based on the smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England survey for the year 2021, showed 30 per cent of children in Yorkshire and the Humber have used a vape

NHS Digital data, based on the smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England survey for the year 2021, showed 30 per cent of children in Yorkshire and the Humber have used a vape 

A major study found that more than 7 per cent of 18-to-24 year olds who have never been tobacco-users, use the devices. Stock

A major study found that more than 7 per cent of 18-to-24 year olds who have never been tobacco-users, use the devices. Stock

‘It is important that we maintain vapes for adult smokers who want to stop,’ he said, describing the proposals as ‘balanced’.

‘We have got the balance right, supporting adult smokers to stop smoking… but targeting all the things that make sure children don’t have access to vapes.’

When implemented, the proposals will follow in the footsteps of countries including parts the US and Canada that already restrict flavours. 

The Government blames rules inherited from the EU, which it claims has led to a system where vapes are being routinely promoted and marketed to children at scale.

Shares in vaping firms have today already tumbled following the announcement.

Chill Brands, which manufacturers Chill Zero vapes and herbal blend CBD cigarettes, saw shares slide by as much as 35 per cent in early trading as a result, while rival business Supreme saw shares drop around 12 per cent.

Chill’s market value had fallen by over £3million, with over £10million knocked off Supreme’s valuation during the morning trading session.

E-cigs allow people to inhale nicotine in a vapour — which is produced by heating a liquid, which typically contains propylene glycol, glycerine, flavourings, and other chemicals.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, they do not contain tobacco, nor do they produce tar or carbon — two of the most dangerous elements.

Although widely viewed as safer than smoking, the long-term effects of vaping still remain a mystery.

Doctors have expressed fear there could be a wave of lung disease, dental issues and even cancer in the coming decades in people who took up the habit at a young age.

Last year leading paediatricians also warned children were being hospitalised with vaping-induced breathing difficulties amid a ‘disturbing’ youth vaping epidemic.

NHS figures show a rise in the number of children admitted to hospital due to vaping. 

Forty children and young people were admitted to hospital in England last year due to ‘vaping-related disorders’, which could include lung damage or worsening asthma symptoms, up from 11 two years earlier, the NHS said.

Responding to the announcement today, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said the ban would require ‘strict enforcement to be effective, as illegal vapes are already flooding the market’.

The Government was unable to commit to the timing of legislation, adding that they are trying to ‘align timing across the UK’ but that their intention is to ‘get it through in this parliamentary session’.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty also said: ‘If passed, this legislation would have a major public health impact across many future generations.’

In June a MailOnline investigation found almost 1,000 serious adverse reactions to e-cigs had been logged by Britain's health watchdog including blood, nervous system and respiratory disorders, as well as cancer and injuries like burns. This includes five deaths linked to the devices

In June a MailOnline investigation found almost 1,000 serious adverse reactions to e-cigs had been logged by Britain’s health watchdog including blood, nervous system and respiratory disorders, as well as cancer and injuries like burns. This includes five deaths linked to the devices

Yet the wider range of proposals — which includes a plan to eventually ban children from ever being able to legally buy cigarettes in the UK — have been criticised as ‘nanny state’ by critics and Tories. 

Vocal nay-sayers include former PM Liz Truss who said the Government ‘should not be seeking to extend the nanny state’.

She added: ‘While the state has a duty to protect children from harm, in a free society adults must be able to make their own choices about their own lives.

‘Banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later will create an absurd situation where adults enjoy different rights based on their birthdate.’

But asked today what her message to the former PM, Ms Atkins told LBC Radio: ‘Well, this, this is a big change. We absolutely acknowledge this.

‘I think it’s rather like the debate that we had a decade ago about whether adults should be able to smoke in cars with their children. 

‘There was a lot of debate about that. But are we honestly saying now 10-12 years later that we would go back? Of course not.

‘So to the debate even further back in time to smoking in public places, we wouldn’t go back to the days of smoke-filled pubs. 

‘And so this is one of those long-term decisions for the future that the Prime Minister wants to make and the Government is very, very ambitious about.’

Everything you need to know about e-cigarettes 

How much nicotine is in an e-cigarette?

There are many different brands of e-cigarettes, containing various different nicotine levels.

The legal amount of nicotine in an e-liquid capacity in the UK is 20mg/ml equating to between 600 and 800 puffs.

The Elf Bar 600, one of Britain’s most popular vapes, is advertised as coming in nicotine strengths of 0mg, 10mg and 20mg. 

How many cigarettes are ‘in’ an e-cigarette? 

The Elf Bar 600 contains the equivalent to 48 cigarettes, analysts say. 

It delivers 600 puffs before it needs to be thrown away, meaning, in theory, every 12.5 puffs equate to one cigarette.

Experts say for many e-cigarettes, 100 puffs equate to ten normal cigarettes. 

Elf Bars are a brand of e-cigarettes often sold in snazzy colours and with child-friendly names and flavours, like blue razz lemonade and green gummy bear

Is vaping better for your health than cigarettes?

Vaping products are considered to be better than cigarettes as users are exposed to fewer toxins and at lower levels, according to the NHS.

The health service adds that vaping instead of smoking cigarettes reduces your exposure to toxins that can cause cancer, lung disease and diseases of the heart and circulation, such as strokes and heart attacks. 

Public Health England, which is now defunct, published an expert independent review in 2015 concluding that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.

However vaping is not risk-free, as while levels in tobacco-products are much higher, e-cigarettes still contain harmful toxins, according to a study by researchers from the Medical University of Silesia in Poland.

And Dr Onkar Mudhar, a London dentist who posts videos on TikTok, said Elf bars can cause gum inflammation, swelling and bleeding.

He said this is because nicotine dries out your mouth and reduces saliva, causing irritation from a build-up of bacteria and food that can’t get washed away.

Nearly 350 hospitalisations due to vaping were logged in England in 2022, which are thought to be mainly down to respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, lung inflammation and, in severe cases, respiratory failure. 

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