Paediatricians are calling for an outright ban on disposable vapes in Scotland.
Scottish Government ministers are being told it is time to tackle the “true scandal” of products such as elf bars to help protect both children’s health and the environment.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) wants to see an outright ban on single use e-cigarettes, which come in bright colours and a range of “exotic flavours”.
First Minister Humza Yousaf has already said a complete ban is not off the table, with an expert group looking at the issue.
But the RCPCH said paediatricians were “increasingly concerned” about the growing popularity of vapes.
Meanwhile, anti-smoking campaigners at Ash Scotland said that with the European Union likely to ban disposable e-cigarettes by the end of 2026, Scotland “has a great opportunity to re-establish itself as a leading public health nation” by bringing in its own ban in 2024.
Research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown that young people who vape are more likely to take up smoking.
One in ten 15-year-olds in Scotland regularly use e-cigarettes – up from 3% in 2018.
Meanwhile paediatricians warned that e-cigarettes can be just as addictive, if not more so, than traditional cigarettes, but with less evidence of the long term impacts on health.
RCPCH officer for Scotland Dr Mairi Stark said that paediatricians were “increasingly concerned with the rate of e-cigarette use among children and young people”.
She insisted: “E-cigarettes categorically should not be used by children.
“At best they are a smoking cessation tool, at worst a harmful pathway to nicotine addiction, with research from the World Health Organisation showing that young people who vape are up to three times as likely to start smoking.”
However she said it was “no real surprise that these disposable products are so popular with young people – these products are so often targeted towards them”.
Dr Stark said: “Disposable e-cigarettes are brightly coloured, containing exotic flavours and labelled with enticing names. It’s a true scandal.”
She insisted there is a “clear mandate for a ban on disposable e-cigarettes in Scotland”.
About two thirds of councils in Scotland support a ban on single use vapes, with 21 out of 32 local authorities backing such a stance.
And Dr Stark said: “I’m proud to say that Scotland has been taking a more proportionate and cautious approach to e-cigarettes than our UK counterparts.
“Scottish paediatricians are on-board and calling for the Scottish Government to ban disposable e-cigarettes once and for all. It’s time to prioritise our children’s health and the environment that they will inherit.”
Professor Andrew Elder, the president of Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh (RCPE) said they too were “deeply concerned about the rising use of disposable electronic cigarettes”.
Prof Elder said: “Many of our members specialise in treating people for a range of diseases that can be caused by smoking including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“They are, therefore, concerned by evidence from the WHO that suggests there is ‘strong to conclusive’ evidence that many young people using e-cigarettes are at an increased risk of progression to using lit smoked tobacco, including cigarettes.”
He added: “Ill health in adult life often has its roots in childhood – if we are serious about prevention, then we must all heed the evidence.
“And there is, of course, an important environmental element in considering whether to ban disposable electronic cigarettes. We consider that disposable devices are harmful to the environment.”
Ash Scotland welcomed calls from both the RCPCH and RCPE for an outright ban on disposable e-cigarettes, with chief executive Sheila Duffy saying this was necessary” both to tackle the huge upsurge of youth vaping which is a major public health concern and to restrict the environmental damage”.
Ms Duffy said “Nicotine is highly addictive and many of these cheap, brightly coloured and sweet flavoured disposable vapes include toxic chemicals that have not been safety tested for inhalation and could seriously damage health over time – this is especially worrying for children and young people as their lungs are still growing.”
“RCPCH and RCPE are clinical experts who speak with authority about the risks to health.
“With the EU looking likely to ban disposable e-cigarettes by the end of 2026, Scotland has a great opportunity to re-establish itself as a leading public health nation and protect Scotland’s ambition for a generation free from tobacco by prohibiting the sale of these health harming recreational products in 2024.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “From litter on our streets, to the risk of fires in waste facilities, single-use vapes pose real and pressing problems. We are also greatly concerned by reports of children and young people obtaining vaping products illegally.
“That is why we commissioned the review of the environmental impacts of single-use vapes which we will publish this month.
“We are considering a range of options, including a potential ban on single-use vapes. The review also considers other options, for example increasing access to responsible disposal options or improved product design.
“Any future approach will be determined by consideration of the options presented.”
The spokesperson stated: “In the meantime, we would urge everyone who uses these products to make sure they are disposed of properly.”