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UK Teen Vaping

Skewed figures are being presented to claim vaping is a “public health emergency”, while BAT announces a plan to combat teen use of ecigs

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The Daily Telegraph has published an article claiming the numbers of teens vaping has doubled since 2014, and cites Martin McKee and Simon Chapman’s opinions. Meanwhile, British American Tobacco (BAT) announces its plan to prevent young people from using its electronic cigarette products.

The newspaper says teen vape rates have doubled in five years, in a study conducted by researchers at King's College London – but surreptitiously confuse figures with ones obtained from a small Coventry University study. It states that 1.6% of teens were vaping in 2014, but this has risen to 3.4% in the latest report.

Public Health England’s (PHE) Professor John Newton is quoted as saying: “In contrast to recent media reports in the US, we are not seeing a surge in e-cigarette use among young people in Britain. While more young people are experimenting with e-cigarettes, the crucial point is that regular use remains low and is very low indeed among those who have never smoked. We will keep a close watch on young people's vaping and smoking habits to ensure we stay on track to achieve our ambition of a smoke-free generation.”

But, in the name of ‘balance’, the health editor has elected to carry the opinions of those who oppose tobacco harm reduction unless it’s done their ‘quit or die’ way.

It cites “health experts” at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool knocking PHE’s statement that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. The two “experts” are Martin McKee and Simon Capewell, who are then cited saying: “there was no reliable evidence to show that e-cigarettes were safe or that they did not provide a ‘gateway’ to smoking for youngsters”.

Ignoring evidence and facts, McKee then states: “Even though the numbers are still lower than in the USA, where teenage vaping has been described as a 'public health emergency' it surely must be a concern that there seems to have been a doubling in numbers of adolescents using e-cigarettes in such a short time.”

Last year, Martin Dockrell wrote about the myth of teen vaping for Public Health England: “Our latest report found no evidence so far to support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people. UK surveys show that young people are experimenting with e-cigarettes, but regular use is rare and confined almost entirely to those who already smoke. Meanwhile, smoking rates among young people in the UK continue to decline.”

“There is also no evidence to support the assertion that vaping is “normalising smoking”. In the years when adult and youth vaping in the UK were increasing, the numbers of young people believing that it was ‘not ok’ to smoke was accelerating. Of course, PHE will continue to monitor the trends in e-cigarette use alongside those in smoking.”

Martin McKee ignores the declining rates of teen smoking. Although correlation is not causation, it is undeniable that the fall in young people smoking maps to the rise in popularity of a product 95% safer than cigarettes.

Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking and Health UK, said: “Only one in 500 of those aged 11-18 who’ve never smoked report using e-cigarettes once a week or more.”

Getting itself ahead of the curve, BAT recently informed the All-Party Parliamentary Group for e-Cigarettes of its new industry Code of Conduct, and launched its youth prevention scheme “BAT VerifY” in Parliament yesterday.

The company says: “BAT UK today committed to do its part in ensuring the prevention of youth access to any form of nicotine containing product and to continue its responsible approach to the way it makes, markets and sells e-cigarettes.”

The scheme includes making sure retailers are:

  • aware of the minimum age for the sale of vaping products
  • aware of their responsibilities with regards to ensuring the minimum age is checked and complied with
  • promoting best practices of age verification

Mark Pawsey MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for e-Cigarettes, said: “The e-cigarette market is developing at lightning speed and is a great example of how innovation can be harnessed to improve public health, by helping smokers to cut down or quit. But with this comes a responsibility to prevent young people from having access to these products. Today the industry has taken an important step in ensuring this is the case thanks to the UKVIA’s new Code of Conduct.



Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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