The government’s school behaviour adviser has called headteachers to crack down on vaping among pupils, calling it “a huge health hazard” and an “enormous distraction”, amid reports that more children are using the devices, including some of the primary age.
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Tom Bennett said vaping was now as big an issue in schools as cigarettes once were, with children becoming “addicted to the practice and the chemicals involved”.
He called on school leaders to confiscate prohibited items, set clear sanctions and follow them through with zero exceptions.
Headteachers in England have described pupils as being caught vaping in lessons, toilets and even during assemblies. In one school, a 10-year-old was found with a vape pen hidden in their uniform.
While the devices are not illegal for children to buy or use, many schools have banned them from premises and grounds.
Bennett said: “Vaping is now as big an issue in schools as cigarettes once were. It’s a huge health hazard and an enormous distraction in lessons.
“Headteachers must treat it with the same seriousness. Pupils need to be educated about the risks, and those caught using e-cigarettes on school premises should face the same punishments as if they were smoking tobacco.”
He added that while some pupils may view vaping as harmless, “the truth is that they are inhaling chemicals and becoming addicted to the practice and the chemicals involved”.
Bennett’s comments come after a survey of headteachers by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found that more than two-thirds had dealt with pupils vaping on school premises in the past year.
The poll of 1,042 members also found that one in eight (12%) said they had dealt with a child vaping in class, while 6% said it had happened during an assembly or other school event.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “This is yet another example of how recent changes to the law are failing to protect children and young people.
“The government urgently needs to review its legislation in this area and bring forward plans to regulate these products better. In the meantime, schools are being left to deal with the consequences.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “E-cigarettes are not currently illegal for children to buy or use, but we recognise the concerns that they may be harmful.
“That is why we have clarified that while electronic cigarettes are not currently covered by smoke-free legislation, we want to keep this under review.”
They added that the department was working with Public Health England on a new anti-smoking campaign, including messages about e-cigarettes.
What do you think of the government’s response to vaping in schools? Should more be done to crack down on the practice? Let us know in the comments below.
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