Restrict vape flavours to stop young people from smoking - Jayne Dowle

Is there anything more irritating than a sickly, sweet-smelling vape cloud? I say this as an ex-smoker too, but I really wish that these chemical-filled tubes of plastic had never been invented.

Not only do discarded vapes litter our streets and add to the mountain of plastic waste humans create, the action of vaping is nowhere near as harmless as many people seem to think it is – especially the young, who have taken to vaping as an alternative to ‘proper’ smoking.

I remember when an ‘e-cigarette’ was a clunky, inelegant thing that required endless charging and refilling. Now they come in bright neon colours, lined up behind the counter, packaged more like sweets than smoking products.

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As Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), says, disposable vapes are now “available for pocket money prices on every street corner”.

'Is there anything more irritating than a sickly, sweet-smelling vape cloud?' PIC: PA'Is there anything more irritating than a sickly, sweet-smelling vape cloud?' PIC: PA
'Is there anything more irritating than a sickly, sweet-smelling vape cloud?' PIC: PA

I keep telling my two that far from being harmless, typical vape juice contains countless chemicals they have never heard of, and some they have, including traces of nicotine, which is of course extracted from tobacco.

“Although vaping is generally much safer than [smoking] cigarettes and vapes include a fraction of the chemical products, they do still contain chemicals that are being inhaled into our deep lung tissue,” says Gareth Nye, a scientist at the University of Chester with an interest in vapes. “The simple answer is we don’t know enough regarding the long-term impact on children.”

My kids know my views, and these are of a concerned parent rather than a rabid former smoker. I like to think I’m fairly libertarian when it comes to parenting and I know from my own experience that if you tell young people that they shouldn’t do something, it’s a sure-fire way to guarantee that they will.

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So I try to remain rational. But I will be showing my son (20) and daughter (17) a new study by researchers at Ohio State University which shows that four out of 10 young adults in America say they would ditch e-cigarettes if only tobacco and menthol flavours were available.

Researchers studied more than 1,400 users aged 14 to 21 to see how restricting flavours impacted how much they vaped, and found that banning those fruity, sickly-sweet flavours that sound so enticing would mean an end to their habit.

It’s all down to marketing in the end. I’ve even read that one vape manufacturer has produced a ‘collectible’ range of flavours to commemorate the Coronation.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for e-cigarettes, because many people have found them invaluable in weening themselves off tobacco. Only last month, the Government announced that one in five smokers in England will receive a free vape starter kit to help them give up cigarettes.

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Other methods are available, I’d just like to add, including nicotine patches, lozenges, gum and hypnotherapy. My concern is that vaping is habit-forming, and former cigarette smokers are simply in danger of swapping one habit for another.However, consenting adults are of course entirely at liberty to make up their own minds about the habits they practise. What concerns me is that the vaping industry has pretty much invented a new habit for under-18s, and it is wrong to allow this to proliferate.

Last week the Australian government announced that it will ban e-cigarettes through a heavy set of controls on imports and packaging to discourage vaping, especially among teens, under its biggest smoking reforms in more than a decade.

So there is definitely a sea-change in the cloudy air. In the UK, in a recent speech at the Policy Exchange think tank, Public Health Minister Neil O’Brien told his audience that there has been a very sharp increase in children vaping, particularly disposable vapes: “NHS figures for 2021 showed that 9 per cent of 11 to 15 year old children used e-cigarettes, up from 6 per cent in 2018. That’s a rapidly rising trend we need to stop.”

It's reported that his department is to launch a call for evidence ahead of suggestions that the Government is planning to review and restrict access to vapes for under 18s.

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It's expected that such a review would look at the “appearance and characteristics” of products on the market including branding, marketing, colour and flavours.

As a parent, I can’t argue with that. If I was a vape manufacturer, or the owner of a chain of vape shops, or ran a corner shop, I might well have a different view.

However, self-interest and profit should surely come behind collective moral responsibility to prevent our children and young people from getting hooked on anything at all.