Underage Vaping Nearly Doubles in U.K.
Current vaping among U.K. children aged 11-17 was up from 4 percent in 2020 to 7 percent in 2022, according to the annual YouGov youth survey for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) carried out in March and published on July 7. The proportion of children who admit ever having tried vaping has also risen from 14 percent in 2020 to 16 percent in 2022.
Disposable e-cigarettes are now the most used product among current vapers, up more than seven-fold from 7 percent in 2020 and 8 percent in 2021, to 52 percent in 2022. Elf Bar and Geek Bar are overwhelmingly the most popular, with only 30 percent of current users having tried any other brands.
Over the past year there has been growing concern about the increasing popularity of disposable vapes with young people, but this is the first time national figures have been available to show the scale of the change. ASH said the increase in vaping shown by the survey is a cause for concern, and needs close monitoring. However, 92 percent of under 18s who’ve never smoked, have also never vaped, the organization pointed out—and only 2 percent have vaped more frequently than once or twice.
“Just to give it a try” is still the most common reason given by never smokers for using an e-cigarette (65 percent). For young smokers the most common reason for using an e-cigarette was “because I like the flavors” (21 percent) followed by “I enjoy the experience” (18 percent) then “just to give it a try” (15 percent), but they also said, “because I’m trying to quit smoking” (11 percent) or “I use them instead of smoking” (9 percent). Fruit flavors remain the most popular (57 percent).
Vaping behavior is strongly age related, with 10 percent of 11-15 year olds ever having tried vaping, compared to 29 percent of 16 and 17 year olds (the figures for those currently vaping are 4 percent and 14 percent respectively). And while underage vaping has risen, underage smoking is lower than it was in 2020 (14 percent in 2022 compared to 16 percent in 2020).
For the first time this year the survey asked about awareness of promotion of e-cigarettes. Over half (56 percent) of 11-17 year olds reported being aware of e-cigarette promotion, most frequently in shops, or online, with awareness highest amongst those who’d ever vaped (72 percent). Tik Tok was the most frequently cited source of online promotion (45 percent) followed by Instagram (31 percent).
In response to the survey results, the U.K. Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) called for a range of get-tough measures to crack down on unscrupulous retailers who sell vapes to young people.
“The UKVIA understands the need for the right balance between supporting adult smokers to quit without encouraging take up amongst under-18s and ‘never-smokers,’” said UKVIA’s Director General John Dunne in a statement.
In a letter to the Department for Health and Social Care, the UKVIA proposed a set of recommendations to come down hard on those who sell vapes to minors while maintaining vaping’s critical role for helping smokers to quit, including fines of £10,000 ($11,897) and a national retail licensing scheme.