Lord Street in Southport. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

Shock new figures reveal that nearly half of 14 and 15 year old children in Sefton have tried vaping. 

The peak age for trying it is 13 to 14. 

One in seven school pupils (14%) are vaping on a regular basis. 

The figures were published as concerns were raised over the access that children have to e-cigarettes. 

National figures show that vaping rates in young people tripled in 2021-22, which coincided with the widespread availability of disposable vapes.

It remains illegal to sell vape products to someone under the age of 18 and to procure them on behalf of someone under-age. 

The survey showed only 21% of children in Sefton reported being asked for identification when buying vapes. 

Trading Standards officers from Sefton Council have increased their snap inspections of vape retailers in the borough.

During the first six months of 2023, Sefton Trading Standards received twice the number of complaints about vape sales to children compared to the whole of 2022. 

They have also encountered many instances of imported devices on sale, which do not comply with regulations

Officers use under-age volunteers and continue to advise businesses, and take “appropriate and proportionate enforcement action* when necessary. 

In a report to councillors, Sefton Council Director of Public Health Margaret Jones said: “There is evidence that vaping worsens childhood asthma, but not more so than smoking. 

“It is scientifically plausible that vaping could affect healthy lung and brain development and possibly mental health.  

“There is a large data gap regarding long-term toxicity from vaping. There are also notable gaps around the possible toxic effects of some flavouring compounds, and the implications of research carried out on animals for our understanding of the health effects of vaping in children and young people.” 

The survey is based on conversations with over 800 mostly 14- and 15-year-olds carried out in Sefton around the start of 2023. 

The basic components of a vape are a battery, which powers a heated atomiser, and a reservoir of ‘e-liquid’ (propylene glycol or glycerol, typically with added nicotine and flavouring). 

When triggered, the atomiser heats the e-liquid, converting it into a mist or vapour of tiny droplets, which are carried into the mouth and lungs and dispersed into the air as the user breathes out.

The first e-cigarette was invented in China in 2003. They arrived in Europe around 2005 and grew in popularity, slowly at first and then more quickly.

They were believed to be helpful for helping older smokers to quit smoking. But in recent years concerns have grown about their increasing attractiveness to children. 

In her report, Margaret Jones said: “The peak age for trying vaping in the Sefton survey sample of 14- and 15-year olds is 13 to 14. 

“The top four reasons for vaping were: ‘to give it a try’, vape flavours, enjoyment, and nicotine addiction. More than 3 out of 4 children who vape also have friends that vape. 

“Shops and peers are the two main ways of obtaining vapes in the survey and only 21% reported being asked for identification when purchasing. Most children in the survey understood the law around vape sales.

“The public health team is currently recommissioning the smoking cessation service. The current service benefits from having a specialist young person’s advisor who has led the introduction of a range of educational and service interventions for young people, including on the issue of vaping.  

“There is a need for further research into evidence-based approaches to enabling young people to stop vaping.  

“The current national policy position on vaping is best summarised in a recent official statement by the Chief Medical Officer for England, ‘If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape; marketing vapes to children is utterly unacceptable.’ 

“The Government has recently announced proposals for a range of legal and other measures to prevent children from vaping, whilst protecting harm reduction benefits for adult smokers.”

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