woman blowing colored smoke out of her mouth

Vaping: What Parents Should Know

The use of electronic cigarettes for nicotine consumption, known as vaping, has seen a surge in popularity in recent years.

In 2022, 7% of young people aged 11-17 were vaping, an increase from 3.3% in 2021 and 4.1% in 2020, according to Action on Smoking and Health.

This growing trend among young people highlights one of the potential hazards associated with the rise of vaping.

A ‘vape‘ is a device that heats liquid, often containing nicotine, to create vapour for the user to inhale.

Vapes serve as an alternative to traditional cigarettes for many people; however, the potential health risks associated with them warrant further research, particularly given the rising numbers of young individuals using these devices.

If you think your child has started vaping or you want to learn more about it, read the guide below.

Vaping What Parents Should Know; vape, e-cigarette

Understanding Vaping

Vaping devices are available in various shapes, sizes, and colours. These devices heat ‘e-liquid‘ or ‘vape juice‘, which typically contains flavorings, nicotine and other components to create a pleasurable vaping experience.

The inbuilt coil heats the liquid, generating a flavored aerosol byproduct. This vaporised liquid is inhaled into the lungs via a mouthpiece, delivering nicotine to the user, before being exhaled through the mouth or nose.

Vaping is thought to pose a much lower risk to health than smoking. However, research shows that inhaling substances not normally present in the body could potentially impair the functioning of the lungs, heart, and blood vessels.

While the adverse effects of cigarette smoke on cardiovascular function are well-established and highly detrimental, there is limited long-term research on vaping due to its relatively recent emergence.

Once ingested, nicotine enters the bloodstream and disperses throughout the body. This leads to an immediate spike in blood pressure and heart rate.

Individuals with cardiovascular issues who consume excessive amounts of nicotine may experience severe health repercussions.

Is Vaping More Harmful than Smoking?

Although concerns have arisen about vaping and hospitalisations, such instances are mostly linked to e-liquids containing Vitamin E and THC, which are seldom found in publicly available vape devices in the UK.

An independent study by Public Health England discovered that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

Nonetheless, the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, so this figure is based on the absence of certain chemicals found in cigarette smoke, such as tar and carbon monoxide.

Cigarettes release thousands of chemicals, with a minimum of 70 being carcinogenic (meaning that they can cause cancer). In contrast, e-liquid contains only a fraction of these chemicals.

As mentioned earlier, while it may not pose the same risks as cigarette smoking, nicotine delivered through vaping can lead to health issues.

Therefore, the dangers of nicotine must be evaluated within the context of an individual’s health before it can be deemed safe.

What to Do if Your Child is Vaping?

If you suspect your child is vaping, it is crucial to have a conversation with them about it. Initiate a non-judgemental, empathetic dialogue with your child, asking if they have tried vaping.

Your goal is to foster an honest discussion, not to shut it down. Even if you don’t believe your children vape, educate them about the associated risks.

Signs that your child may be vaping include:

  • New health issues, such as coughing or wheezing
  • Possession of e-cigarette accessories, such as cartridges or other pen-shaped devices
  • Unfamiliar smells – you might detect fruity or sweet odors, for example

It is essential for every parent to discuss the risks of addictive substances with their child.

If your child is over 18 and wants to transition from smoking to vaping, ensure they find a reputable vendor and only purchase thoroughly tested vaping products made in the UK.

Children under 18 and people who have never smoked should not take up vaping.

Be Cautious of Disposable Vapes

Disposable vapes are a common way in which children are introduced to vaping. These small, colourful devices are highly popular on social media, making them an attractive status symbol for under-18s.

Several surveys have found that one in every five 15-year-olds across the UK has tried or frequently uses disposable vapes, demonstrating the scale of this problem.

Owing to the high demand for vaping devices, a considerable number of untested illegal disposables have emerged in UK shops.

These products do not comply with the Tobacco Products Directive regulations (rules governing the safety of all vaping products before they can be marketed), which means that consumers cannot know what is inside them. As such, they may pose much greater health risks than regulated products.

These unauthorized versions can be identified by:

  • Their size – they are often larger than typical disposable vapes
  • Claims that a product delivers more than 500-600 puffs (1,000-3,000 puffs are common examples)
  • Nicotine contents above 2% (equivalent to 20mg, the legal UK limit)

Even tested, legal disposable vapes contain smooth e-liquid, which has a pleasant flavour and is much less severe than smoking a cigarette.

This means your child may vape a 2% disposable device without realising they’re inhaling the maximum legal level of nicotine – equivalent to 50 cigarettes per 500 puff bar.

It may not sound like it, but 2% is pretty potent, and should not be consumed by anyone under the age of 18.

Where Do Children Obtain Their Disposable Vapes?

The sale of vaping devices to underage children is currently a significant issue in the UK.

Trading Standards has received numerous reports indicating that young people have been:

  • Purchasing vapes online, using fake accounts to bypass age verification
  • Buying them from small retailers, such as corner shops
  • Purchasing them in supermarkets, despite supposedly stricter measures
  • Receiving them from older teenagers or school friends

If you are worried about your children vaping, whether at home, school, or with their friends, speak up and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

You are not alone; millions of households in the UK are facing this issue, and there is help and guidance available to assist you in understanding the real risks and how to address them.

Action on Smoking and Health has recently issued special guidance to help schools develop appropriate vaping policies, which are designed to protect and educate both students and teachers.

If you are concerned, talk to your child’s school about this and ensure they are doing everything they can in line with this new guidance to keep your children safe and vape-free; they may even be able to offer advice for you at home.

By opening up a conversation with your child and educating yourself about the potential dangers of electronic cigarettes, you can do your part to prevent the rise of vaping among young people.