Agenda item

Vaping Report: Children and Young People


Ruth Harrell (Director of Public Health), Dan Preece (Public Health Specialist), and Dave Schwartz (Public Health Specialist) delivered the Vaping: Children and Young People report to the Board, and highlighted the following points-


a)    The last Vaping Position statement had been brought to the Health and Wellbeing Board (H&WB) in 2019;


b)    Vaping had an important role to play in supporting people to stop smoking, and had proven a valuable tool however, it was recognised that many young people were vaping who had never smoked initially. While vaping was highly encouraged as a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, there were still risks associated with their use, and there were considerable unknowns;


c)    A consultation and review had been carried out over the summer, and it was expected that there would soon be changes to national legislation regarding vaping;


d)    Nationally, smoking rates for children and young people had declined to an all-time low however, vaping rates were increasing;


e)    Research had demonstrated that many young people started vaping ‘to try it’, and to experience the flavours however, many young smokers had transitioned to vaping for harm reduction, and to assist tobacco cessation. There was also a minority group of young people that used vapes for controlled/illegal substances;


f)     It was likely that Plymouth had a higher rate of vaping uptake for young people than the national average of 9% however, current figures were unreliable. This was largely due to Plymouth’s levels of deprivation and wider substance misuse. Vaping rates among women and girls were higher than rates for men and boys;


g)    While it was illegal to sell or advertise vapes to anyone under the age of 18, it was not illegal for under 18s to use them;


h)    The Enforcement Team had carried out numerous test purchases of vapes in Plymouth, and had seized over 1,653 illegal vapes in 2022/23, and 166 in 2023/24;


i)     Vaping was by far the most popular and successful method of smoking cessation however, there were many misconceptions around the risk of vaping. Following a systematic review, the Government had placed the risks from vaping on a similar level to those of regulated nicotine replacement therapy;


j)     All suspected UK adverse reactions to vaping were recorded by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. From January 2010 to July 2023, there had been 958 reactions, 347 reports, and 5 fatalities associated with vaping.


Following questions, the Board discussed-


k)    The importance of clear, consistent and evidence based messaging/ communication regarding the benefits and risks of vaping;


l)     The waste and environmental harm associated with the disposal of vapes;


m)  Online sales of nicotine and flavour–based vapes was low in comparison to store sales however, this differed for illegal and controlled substances.


The Board agreed-


1.    ??To adopt the following position on vaping and e-cigarettes: 


                  i.       ?We recognise that vaping has a key role in driving down rates of smoking in Plymouth;


             ii.    Vaping with regulated e-cigarettes is estimated to be 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco;


            iii.    Consumers and the public deserve protection from potential harms of vaping and the use of e-cigarettes through restrictions on their sale and marketing to children and controls to ensure safety and quality;


            iv.     Stopping smoking is the best thing a person who smokes can do for their health. Our advice to people who smoke tobacco is to consider switching from smoking to vaping with e-cigarettes;


             v.    Vaping is not risk free, so our advice is: if you don’t smoke, don’t vape;


            vi.    Ongoing surveillance and research is crucial to detect long-term impacts on individuals and communities. If any new risks emerge, or guidance changes, we will revise our position. In the meantime, we have a vital responsibility to communicate the reliable evidence that is emerging and use it to help guide us;


           vii.     A Working Group is to look at agreeing an approach involving a wide range of partners;


          viii.    While the risk profile of vaping has not changed significantly since 2019, we are seeing a recent increase in vaping among young people and increases in the use of unregulated illegal vapes, which have a lack of control and in some cases are harmful to people’s health;


           ix.     We need clear and consistent messages to the public. There is widespread public confusion about vaping and research shows people’s perceptions have become less accurate. The evidence tells us vaping with regulated products is substantially less harmful than smoking with tobacco, but a growing number of people believe vaping is at least as harmful as say they don’t know. This is important because this misperception could be preventing people who from stopping. We have a duty to provide clear messages to the public, based on the evidence. Vaping can help people who are most dependenton smoking to quit and smokers who switch to vaping reduce the risks to their health considerably. 

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