There have been a big rise in hospital admissions linked to vaping for children under the age of ten since the start of last year, figures show.
NHS hospital admissions for “vaping-related disorders” have tripled in two years across all age groups, with more than 1,000 admissions since the start of 2020.
Since the start of 2022, there have been 66 hospitalisations due to vaping for under twenties, up sixfold from the same period two years ago.
For those under the age of ten, there have been 24 admissions, up from two in the same period two years ago, according to NHS data obtained by The Times under freedom of information laws.
Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said the government knew “there has been a surge in vaping amongst children”, and was “committed to reversing the trend.”
The government, which has opened a consultation for parents to contribute their thoughts on vaping, is considering a ban on disposable vapes, in addition to wider restrictions on flavours, packaging and advertisement.
Dr Mike McKean, vice president for policy at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said he was worried about the impact of “wholly avoidable hospitalisations” due to vaping on health services before the busy winter period.
He said: “Just as bold action is needed to tackle smoking, so too is it needed to tackle the rise in youth vaping. We would once again remind the government that nothing short of a ban on these unsustainable products will adequately protect our children.”
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, medical director at NHS England, said that bright, colourful packaging and child-friendly flavours were encouraging young people to vape. He warned that “NHS staff will need to spend even more time responding to this growing problem”.
Recent surveys from the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) charity show that more than a fifth of children have tried vaping this year, up from 16 per cent in 2022 and 13.9 per cent in 2020.
E-cigarette use is highest in the 16 to 24 age bracket in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, which found that the percentage of people in the age group who were daily or occasional vapers in 2022 increased to 15.5 per cent compared with 11.1 per cent in 2021. The trend was especially marked among younger women, with the proportion of daily users more than tripling year on year.
Nicholas Hopkinson, professor of respiratory medicine and chairman of ASH, said: “Although this isn’t on the scale of passive smoking, which causes around 5,000 children to be admitted to hospital every year in this country, any hospital admission is a concern.
“The simple message is that growing lungs need to breathe clean air. In young people, vaping can cause irritation to the airways in the lung and aggravate asthma. We know what worked to bring down smoking rates in early teens. Vaping needs the same approach, taking steps to reduce the affordability, accessibility and appeal of vapes to keep them out of the hands of children.”
Hopkison said it was “unfortunate” that the government had voted down amendments to the health and social care bill two years ago which would have given it powers to regulate the marketing of e-cigarettes to children, and prevent the distribution of free samples to under-18s. He also called for an excise tax on youth vaping to crack down on illegal imports, and a ban of certain branding and point of sale displays.
The health secretary said: “We’re currently consulting on ways to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to young people — including by reducing the number of flavours and colours of vapes available, regulating how vapes are displayed in shops to keep them out of sight for children, and restricting the sale of disposable vapes.
“We’re also cracking down on those selling vapes illegally to children by providing an additional £30 million each year for enforcement agencies to tackle illicit vapes and underage vape sales.”News