The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) is calling on the Government to ban disposable e-cigarettes over concerns that vaping is becoming an ‘epidemic among children’.
Vaping products are likely to be damaging to developing lungs, and the RCPCH believes that without interventions to protect young people, the UK is ‘sleepwalking into a crisis’.
Experimental use of e-cigarettes among 11–17-year-olds has risen by 50 per cent since last year, and the College, which has long campaigned on children smoking, is asking the Government to take ‘meaningful action’ and consider a ban on selling these products to children.
Disposable e-cigarette products such as Elf bars, Geek bars and Lost Marys are disproportionately used amongst children and young people and can be as addictive, if not more, than traditional cigarettes. Having only been on sale in the UK since 2007, long-term health studies do not yet exist, but experts agree that e-cigarette use carries a risk, particularly in relation to cardiovascular health. According to the RCPCH, paediatricians are ‘deeply concerned’ about the rise in uptake of e-smoking in children and the long-term impacts of these products on young lungs, hearts, and brains.
Paediatric respiratory consultant Dr Mike McKean, and RCPCH vice president for policy, said: ‘What we do know is that these products are not risk-free and are likely to be damaging for developing young lungs. Youth vaping is fast becoming an epidemic among children, and I fear that if action is not taken, we will find ourselves sleepwalking into a crisis. Without a doubt, disposable e-cigarettes should be banned.’
The products are not only considered detrimental to health, but single-use vapes are also becoming an environmental issue, with at least 1.3 million disposable vapes thrown away every week in the UK. The College said that Westminster’s approach to this problem is ‘out of step’ with many other countries, including our closest neighbours, Scotland, France, Germany, and Ireland, who are all considering a ban.
The Government has called for information to help identify opportunities to reduce the number of children and young people accessing and using vape products, and the RCPCH submitted evidence in response this month.
Dr Mike McKean added: ‘The Government in Westminster has the responsibility and capability to make a choice that will have far-reaching consequences, potentially for generations to come. Their call for evidence signifies a willingness to look at current data – but once this process is completed, the Government will have to decide whether to look away or to take meaningful action.’
The British Paediatric Respiratory Society (BPRS) stated they stood firmly in support of RCPCH’s call for an outright ban on disposable e-cigarettes.
Their president, Dr Julian Legg, said: ‘As an organisation dedicated to the health and well-being of children, we share the concerns raised by the RCPCH regarding the disproportionate use of disposable e-cigarette products among children and young people, as well as their detrimental impact on the environment. The BPRS urges the UK Government to prioritise the health of our children and the preservation of the environment by heeding the call for an outright ban on disposable e-cigarettes.’