Vaping teens believe there’s no health risk

A new report finds that more people are taking up vaping – without ever having smoked

TEENAGERS are picking up vapes for the first time because they are being told they are a harmless way of relieving stress, according to a new report calling for an urgent education programme to help young people understand the dangers of e-cigarettes.

Dozens of young people at three youth clubs in Camden have responded to a survey by the borough’s health watchdog, Healthwatch, which is warning that “national guidance around vaping does not fully reflect the health risks”.

The study of 13 to 17-year-olds looked at how a combination of peer pressure, family members setting a bad example and social media influencers on TikTok were the main causes of teenagers picking up their first vape.

Chief executive Steve Heard said teenagers “thinking they need to use a vape to manage stress is a sign of the times” for youngsters living with the “after-effects of Covid”.

He said: “This is happening instead of young people doing active things – like exercise, stimulating the mind and body in healthy ways – not things that cause addiction.”

The report shows that some young people use vapes and as an alternative way to “cope with stress and/or anxiety”, adding: “The growing perception among some young people that vaping relieves stress is a worrying insight.”

Mr Heard said the positives of vaping figures showed a significant rise in the number of people switching from tobacco in recent years – but this number looks set to be “far surpassed” by those taking up vaping having not smoked before.

“We should learn our lesson from the impact of smoking, and enforce that before it’s too late,” Mr Heard said. The report calls for mandatory ID checks in shops, explicit warnings about potential health risks on e-cigarette packaging, and “a programme of education to dispel the ‘cool’ image of e-cigarettes, that vaping is harmless”.

The study found many young people appeared confused about whether there were long-term risks of lung damage, cancer and respiratory problems – or if this was just a scare story made up by authority figures.

“Is it truly bad for us, or do adults just not like it?” said one of the Camden teenagers surveyed.

More than half of the Camden teenagers experimenting with vapes had never smoked before, the report said.

On social media, the teenagers said “it’s all over TikTok” and “I think social media does influence my perspectives on vaping, as popular people do it”. Cool colours and sweet tastes were also blamed.

The report added: “Children are now entering adulthood being exposed to the addictive nature of e-cigarettes, without any knowledge of how it might be affecting their health.”

The survey’s findings are being shared with Camden youth clubs, schools, and council bodies.

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