There has been an increase in the number of children presenting with asthma, wheeze and bronchitis-type conditions because of vaping, a committee of influential MPs has heard.
In an evidence session last week, the Health and Social Care Committee was also told of children with asthma who are unable to use school toilets because they are being used by ‘a lot’ of children who are vaping.
Representatives of the UK vaping industry, alongside school and children’s health leaders, appeared before the committee which is exploring the rise in the use of e-cigarettes by children and examining options to restrict access to vapes.
It follows a consultation by the government on action needed to reduce vaping among those under 18.
During the meeting on 28 June, Dr Helen Stewart, officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘We are certainly seeing an increase in asthma, wheeze and bronchitis-type presentations that can be linked to vaping.
‘There is a lot of emerging evidence about other potential complications.’
While she recognised that there was not enough ‘long-term data’ on the impacts of vaping since it was introduced in the UK in 2007, she stressed action was needed now to prevent further damage caused to children and young people.
Dr Stewart said the college would much rather see vapes banned now, ‘than wait for the 30 years it took to understand the effect of smoking, when the chicken has flown the coop’.
She then highlighted the experience of a colleague who runs asthma clinics.
‘He has many patients saying that they cannot use the toilets at school because there are a lot of kids in there vaping and it sets off their asthma,’ Dr Stewart told the committee.
She added: ‘It is a real and present health issue for a lot of children and young people.’
Meanwhile, Laranya Caslin, principal at St George’s Academy in Sleaford, said her school team estimated that a quarter (25%) of its students were vaping.
‘I would say that we have a significant proportion of students vaping,’ she told the committee.
‘They vape regularly and, in some cases, make excuses to leave lessons to go to the toilet to vape.’
She added: ‘What concerns me is the rate of increase of teenagers taking up vaping.
‘Many lovely students, who I do not think would ever dream of smoking or having a sneaky cigarette, have been drawn into vaping much more easily because it is perceived to be safe and because of the chat around the flavours and being “in”, and part of the peer-to-peer conversations you need if you are to be in that crowd. Those are my worries.’