A rise in the number of young people vaping is a “disaster in the making”, a charity has warned, as new figures show that e-cigarette use in Britain has reached record levels.
Statistics indicate that an estimated 4.3 million people across Scotland, England and Wales vape, 8.3% of adults in the three countries.
It is a significant rise on the 1.7% of adults across the nations who vaped just 10 years ago, equating to around 800,000 people.
Of those 4.3 million people who currently vape, around 2.4 million are ex-smokers, 1.5 million are current smokers and 350,000 have never smoked a cigarette.
The figures also show that the proportion of current e-cigarette users who have never smoked has risen from 4.9% in 2021 to 8.1& this year.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, has called for action to be taken to tackle vaping among young people.
She explained that the increase in use is being driven by the wide availability of vapes, as well as the marketing used to promote them.
“The rise in vaping that we’re seeing is happening among very young adults,” Duffy told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.
“We’ve yet to see the figures, which we expect to see by the end of this year from the Scottish Government, about children and youth vaping.
“And the drive seems to be happening there, it seems to be very much driven by the wide availability of cheap, brightly coloured, highly flavoured vapes, disposable vapes.
“And that’s of real concern both in terms of health and the environment.”
Duffy urged the Scottish Government to shut down marketing and advertising of vaping products, as well as carrying out further assessment of what they contain.
She said: “I think the problem is that the cost makes it very accessible to children and very unusually in the last six months alone we’ve seen many reports of young children, even in primary schools, using vapes.
“That is really worrying because children, as their lungs grow and develop, as their brains grow and develop, are really vulnerable to the harms from these devices and we don’t know really what’s in them.
“We know enough to be worried, but not enough to know just how alarming this will be in the longer-term for people.
“So, I think the Scottish Government must act now and this is not just about the price, this is about the marketing, promotion and advertising.”
Duffy continued: “These companies are aiming for young consumers, it’s very clear from the design, from the way they’re marketed, and they are reaching them.
“And what we know is children and young people who vape are at three-times higher risk not only of nicotine addiction, but of going on to use cigarettes and tobacco.
“So for me this is a disaster in the making and it’s urgent, and I would like to see the Scottish Government move quickly to shut down marketing and advertising, and to take a look at what’s in some of these products.”
Duffy insisted there needs to be “urgent action” to tackle the issue, as she also underlined the impact on the environment of disposable vaping products.
“I think you can’t do just one thing and what’s of particular concern to me is the way these products are being designed and marketed in terms of colours, in terms of flavours, in terms of widespread availability in places that never sold tobacco,” she said.
“It’s just like alcopops. I mean, it’s addictive, it’s dangerous and it is being marketed under fruit and sweetie flavours.
“So, I think the price is a factor, I think it’s also the disposable vapes and those are an environmental catastrophe because they’re disposable, throwaway plastics and lithium batteries, and they’re all ending up in the tip.
“So, the Scottish Government needs to act now because this is companies marketing addiction and marketing nicotine to kids.
“There needs to be urgent action because this is new, it’s something that’s changing fast and yes, price is a factor, but it’s also the marketing, the promotions and the widespread availability.”