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Rising Youth Vaping: Concerns Over Targeting by Vape Companies

In recent years, a disturbing trend has emerged as children and young teenagers become the target audience for vape companies. Alarming new data from NHS Digital reveals that nearly 10 percent of 11 to 15-year-olds in England now smoke e-cigarettes, a significant rise from 6 percent in 2018. Within this group, the number of 15-year-old girls using e-cigarettes has more than doubled, surging from 10 percent to a shocking 21 percent over the same period.

While there is some good news in the fight against smoking among the young population, with a decrease in overall smoking rates from 5 percent to 3 percent, the rise of vaping among children poses new challenges. The figures suggest that young people who engage in vaping, smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs report lower levels of life satisfaction. Disturbingly, 46 percent of 15-year-old girls express “low levels of happiness,” and 51 percent report experiencing high anxiety levels.

The Concerning Rise in Youth Vaping

Dr. Mike McKean, a prominent paediatrician and vice president of policy for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, is deeply disturbed by the increasing number of children and young people adopting e-cigarettes. The long-term effects of these products are still largely unknown, and yet they are being marketed aggressively to young individuals with bright packaging, alluring flavors, and enticing names. Disposable e-cigarettes, easily accessible in newsagents and sweet shops, have become popular among children, and vape shops now dot almost every high street.

The e-cigarette companies appear solely focused on “hooking” children and young people to make profits without considering their health and well-being. Dr. McKean calls for urgent action from the UK government, proposing the introduction of plain packaging for e-cigarettes and nicotine products. Without intervention, we risk witnessing a generation of children addicted to nicotine.

The Need for Tighter Vaping Product Regulations

As the issue continues to escalate, Prof Ann McNeill, a renowned expert in tobacco addictions from King’s College London, emphasizes the necessity of understanding the driving factors behind the surge in youth vaping. Packaging, accessibility, taste, and addictiveness all play a role in attracting young individuals to these products. While the rise in youth vaping is concerning, it is essential to keep the response proportionate, considering the much greater risks associated with traditional smoking.

The Intersection of Vaping, Alcohol Use, and Drug Taking

The NHS Digital data also reveals worrying trends in alcohol use and drug taking among school children. Six percent of students report consuming alcohol once a week, and the number of students who have never had a drink dropped from 44 percent in 2018 to 40 percent last year. Additionally, 18 percent of pupils admit to having taken drugs, down from 24 percent in 2018.

Impact on Wellbeing and Life Satisfaction

The survey included questions about wellbeing, life satisfaction, happiness, and anxiety levels among young people. Girls reported lower levels of wellbeing compared to boys, with almost half of 15-year-old girls reporting a low level of happiness, and 51 percent experiencing high levels of anxiety.

Furthermore, the survey found that young people who recently engaged in smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs reported significantly lower levels of life satisfaction compared to those who did only one of these activities or none at all.

Experts Call for Action

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), echoes the concerns raised by NHS Digital’s survey, pointing out that the rise in underage vaping requires immediate action. Schools, parents, and local authorities need guidance on how to tackle the issue, and ASH has recently published a comprehensive guide to address youth vaping.

While action on vaping is essential, it is crucial to acknowledge that only a minority of children are vaping. The survey findings show that youth smoking continues to decline, emphasizing that smoking remains a far more harmful habit than vaping.

Government’s Stance and Future Measures

The Department of Health and Social Care acknowledges the need for stronger regulations to prevent children from vaping. The government is committed to becoming smoke-free by 2030 and is currently considering further measures to address the challenges outlined in the independent smoking review by Javed Khan. The government emphasizes that vaping should exclusively serve as a tool to help people quit smoking, and it should not be used by individuals under 18 or non-smokers.


The rise in vaping among children and young people is a concerning public health issue. Vape companies must be held accountable for their marketing strategies targeting this vulnerable population. The government and relevant authorities need to implement tighter regulations, including plain packaging for e-cigarettes, to protect the well-being of our youth and prevent them from falling victim to nicotine addiction.


1. How significant is the increase in youth vaping?

The new data from NHS Digital suggests that nearly 10 percent of 11 to 15-year-olds in England now smoke e-cigarettes, a considerable rise from 6 percent in 2018.

2. What impact does vaping have on the well-being of young individuals?

The figures indicate lower levels of reported life satisfaction among young people who engage in vaping, smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs.

3. Why are vape companies targeting children and young people?

E-cigarette companies employ bright packaging, exotic flavors, and enticing names to attract children and young people, focusing solely on making profits without considering their health and well-being.

4. What are the proposed measures to address youth vaping?

Experts call for the UK government to introduce plain packaging for e-cigarettes and nicotine products and implement tighter restrictions on the advertising of vaping products.

5. How does vaping compare to smoking in terms of harm?

While the rise in youth vaping is concerning, experts emphasize that smoking remains a much bigger risk to health than vaping. The focus should remain on reducing smoking rates among young people.

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