Campaigners are demanding immediate action after it was revealed more than a tenth of 15-year-olds now vape.
Recent figures found that 10.1% of fourth year pupils, and 4.3% of second year students, who are about 13 years old, reported using e-cigarettes regularly – once a week or more.
The data also revealed that young people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland are more likely to regularly vape (7.8%) than those in the most affluent areas (4.6%).
The results were published in the Scottish Government’s 2021-22 Health and Wellbeing Census earlier this week, which surveyed 25,380 S2 and S4 pupils.
Campaigners at ASH Scotland, a charity taking action to reduce the harm caused by tobacco, said they are concerned about the survey findings and are calling on policymakers to do more to protect young people’s health.
Sheila Duffy, the charity’s chief executive, said young people who experiment with e-cigarettes are three times as likely to start cigarette smoking than those who do not.
Citing the latest figures from the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS), ASH Scotland claims that regular e-cigarette use by 15-year-olds has tripled and more than doubled for 13-year-olds in the last five years.
The most recent SALSUS report, published in 2018, and which had 21,559 participants, said regular vaping by 13-year-olds and 15-year-olds stood at 2% and 3% respectively at the time.
Ms Duffy added: “Children using e-cigarettes is a major worry as most vaping products include nicotine, which is highly addictive, and toxic e-liquids that have not been safety tested for inhalation, and could risk damage to their growing lungs over time.
“Promoting novel products such as recreational e-cigarettes is one way in which the tobacco industry is reaching out to future generations of potential consumers and it is an issue that needs to be tackled by the Scottish Government as a matter of urgency.
“Swift action is now required to introduce measures. We are, therefore, calling on the public health minister to lay robust regulations for parliamentary approval without further delay.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said the findings from the consultation will be used to inform the refreshed Tobacco Action Plan, which is due to be published later this year.
The spokesperson added: “We are very concerned by reports of young people obtaining e-cigarettes or vaping products and have asked ASH Scotland to undertake work with young people to help them understand the risks associated with using nicotine vaping products.
“Last year we consulted on restrictions on the advertising and promotion of vaping products.
“These are aimed at reducing the visibility of vapes to children, young people and adult non-smokers.
“Any action we seek to take will build on the regulations already in place to restrict the marketing, promotion and sale of vaping products to under-18s.”
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