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Welsh Kids Dropping Vaping

DECIPHer report shows that vaping has fallen off with Welsh youth but the decline in long term smoking rates has stalled

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A report from the Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity and Implementation in Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer) has been released. It looks at youth smoking and vaping in Wales and finds that the Mark Drakeford’s historical fear of vaping becoming an epidemic and renormalising smoking were overblown.

Drakeford was a relative unknown when he became the Welsh Assembly’s First Minister – to all that is except vapers. While steering the committee for Health & Social Care, the Labour man pushed for a stringent clampdown on harm reduction, saying that vaping would normalise smoking, act as a gateway to cigarettes, and spark a teen epidemic in the Principality. [link]

Taking his evidence almost exclusively from the likes of Professor Martin McKee, Drakeford chose to ignore expert after expert who presented the benefits vaping offered smokers and those concerned about tobacco harm reduction.

At the time, Kirsty Williams (Welsh Liberal Democrats) said at the end of the fact-finding process: “The evidence presented to the committee has been clear that this ban would have an adverse impact on the health of vapers, many of whom use e-cigs as a tool to give up smoking. I’m confused as to how Labour has come to a completely opposing view from the same evidence.” [link]

Despite the opposition at the highest levels, the years since have seen vaping make as much of an impact in Wales as it did in the rest of the United Kingdom. By 2019, vaping had become the number one quit smoking method and twice as many quitters chose to vape over traditional cessation products. [link]

The latest survey spoke to more than 100,000 school children, from 198 secondary schools, across Wales about their smoking and vaping experiences. The documents says:

  • Since their emergence in UK markets over the past decade, e-cigarettes have been increasingly recognised as having a role to play in helping smokers to quit
  • In 2019, 11% of 11-16 year olds reported ever having smoked a cigarette, while the proportion of adolescents smoking at least weekly remained at 4%. Smoking uptake continues to be substantially higher among children from poorer families
  • Experimentation with e-cigarettes fell for the first time since measurement began in 2013
  • 22% of 11-16 year olds reported having ever tried an e-cigarette (down from 25% in 2017), although weekly use was rare
  • Current use of e-cigarettes remains concentrated among current smokers

Ash Wales’ Suzanne Cass commented: "With e-cigarette usage falling amongst young people, this evidence demonstrates that vaping is not a public health concern. The focus should be on addressing the unacceptable smoking levels amongst young people.

"Sadly, smoking is a lifelong addiction that all too often begins in childhood and we know from our own research that 81% of adult smokers in Wales were 18 or under when they had their first cigarette."


  • Youth smoking and vaping in Wales: Findings from the School Health Research Network 2019 Student Health and Wellbeing survey, DECIPHer – [link]

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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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