Vaping among secondary-school children is rising, with nearly one in five 15-year-olds using e-cigarettes in 2021, a survey by NHS Digital suggests.
Among 11-15-year-olds, 9% say they are vapers – up from 6% in 2018.
Doctors say children are targeted by e-cigarette companies with bright packaging, exotic flavours and enticing names.
The long-term effects of vaping remain unknown – but it is much less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
A government spokesperson said that the UK has strict rules on safety, labelling and advertising to prevent children from vaping.
The survey asked more than 8,000 young people about their drug use over the past year.
It found that while the overall use of drugs had fallen, there had been an increase in the use of some substances, including vaping and cannabis.
Cannabis use among 11-15-year-olds increased from 4% to 6% between 2018 and 2021.
Vaping was most common among 15-year-olds, with 18% saying they had used e-cigarettes in the past year. This is up from 14% in 2020 and 8% in 2018.
The number of young people using cocaine rose from 1% to 2%.
However, the survey found that overall drug use among secondary school pupils decreased – from 30% in 2018 to 26% in 2021.
The use of alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs also fell during this period.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said the increase in vaping among young people was \”worrying\”.
\”We know that children are attracted by the flavours, the packaging and the marketing of these products,\” she told BBC News.
\”It\’s very clear that the tobacco companies are targeting children with what is effectively a new form of smoking.\”
She called on the government to do more to tackle teenage vaping, including banning flavoured e-cigarettes.
\”I think we need to see much tougher action from government,\” she said. \”That means looking at a ban on flavoured products and making sure that the advertising rules are much stricter.\”
A government spokesperson said: \”The UK has some of the strictest rules in the world on safety, labelling and advertising to prevent children from vaping.
\”We have also introduced a comprehensive programme of support to help people quit smoking, including free quitting aids and access to specialist stop smoking services.\”
According to the NHS, vaping is much less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful components of cigarette smoke.
However, the long-term effects of vaping are not yet known.
What do you think of the rise in teenage vaping? Are you worried about the health risks? Let us know in the comments below.
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