Children are being hospitalised with vaping-induced breathing difficulties amid a ‘disturbing’ youth vaping epidemic, senior medics warned today.
The gadgets, which contain high doses of nicotine, are ‘addicting children’ in the ‘early stages of their development’, the leading paediatricians said.
As a result, clinics are seeing rising numbers of children developing lung conditions related to vaping, according to Dr Michael McKean, vice president for policy at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
The devices are known to cause respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, chest pain, lung inflammation and, in severe cases, respiratory failure.
The warning comes as the RCPCH today called for a ban on all disposable e-cigarettes, warning that ‘youth vaping is fast becoming an epidemic’.
Pictured: A bright pink vape shaped to look like a child’s toy but containing huge amounts of highly addictive nicotine was seized during a series of raids in Durham. It is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s but social media carries posts from teenagers showing vapes and discussing flavours such as pink lemonade, strawberry, banana and mango
Shock data last month revealed a record 11.6 per cent of 11 to 17 year olds in Britain have now tried vaping. This is up on 7.7 per cent last year and twice as high as rates seen a decade ago — before the UK’s vaping epidemic blew up
Tests on e-cigarettes confiscated from youngsters found they contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Some were almost ten times above safe limits. Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting
Dr McKean, a paediatric respiratory consultant at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We are now seeing children who are presenting to hospital and to clinics who have got breathing problems related to vaping, we believe.’
He added: ‘We know that disposable vapes are the main vapes children are using. We’ve seen a disturbing rise in the number of children and young people vaping.’
Given e-cigarettes have not long been available to purchase, ‘it’s a very difficult thing to study’, he acknowledged.
‘It’s fair to say we’re not seeing large numbers of children with severe lung disease but it’s certainly been reported now where people have developed lung disease related to vaping.’
However Dr McKean added: ‘Vaping was first designed to enable people who were addicted to cigarette smoking to come off cigarette smoking and there’s no doubt that if you buy legally carefully produced vapes that it’s likely to be a lot less harmful than cigarette smoking.’
But he added: ‘We are concerned that we’re seeing vapes that contain high doses of nicotine which are addicting children to a substance in an early stage of their development.’
Although widely accepted as safer than smoking, the long-term effects of vaping remain a mystery.
Doctors have in recent months raised fears there could be a wave of lung disease, dental issues and even cancer in the coming decades in people who took up the habit at a young age.
The RCPH is urging the Government to ban disposable e-cigarettes over concerns about use among young people.
In response to the Government consultation on e-cigarettes, which closes today, the college said the gadgets ‘are not a risk-free product and can be just as addictive, if not more so than traditional cigarettes’.
In its submission, the RCPCH also noted the ‘serious environmental impact of disposable e-cigarettes’ must not be ignored, noting they contain an average of 0.15g of lithium.
The amount of lithium discarded in disposable vapes each year is enough to make around 1,200 electric car batteries.
It is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s but social media carries posts from teenagers showing vapes and discussing flavours such as pink lemonade, strawberry, banana and mango.
A damning MailOnline expose in April laid bare the true scale of the problem and the marketing tactics of vape retailers trying to target children.
Tom Padley, now 19, from Putney, London, told MailOnline at the time that he had been using vapes since the age of just 13.
Tom, who picked up the habit in boarding school, said ‘it’s not like cigarettes, where you would have to find a place to go outside and do it — you can just do it non-stop indoors’.
But six years into vaping, he has begun to suffer health issues.
‘I get ill a lot more. I get ulcers occasionally in my mouth. I have a lot of coughs. I guarantee it’s massively increased due to vaping,’ he told MailOnline.
Brightly-coloured ‘highlighter vapes’, sold in child-friendly flavours like bubble gum and strawberry, contained 12 micrograms of lead per gram, according to a BBC investigation last month. This is 2.4-times the stipulated safe exposure level
The 15 recommendations put forward by Dr Javed Khan OBE, to help England be smoke-free by 2030. They were published in the Khan review, released in July last year
Tom Padley, pictured here when he was 16, said he is angry he was able to get vapes so easily as a child and now suffers health complications from his nicotine addiction
Bright pink vape shaped to look like a kid’s toy among hundreds seized
A bright pink vape shaped to look like a child’s toy but containing huge amounts of highly addictive nicotine was seized during a series of raids.
Durham County Council trading standards officers visited three shops in the county and confiscated 326 vapes for having tanks with a capacity exceeding the 2ml legal limit, after being tipped off by the public.
Among them was a bright pink vape manufactured to look like a children’s strawberry milkshake toy, with a cute illustration on the side – and a tank ten times the legal size.
Cllr John Shuttleworth, Cabinet member for highways, rural communities and community safety, said: ‘Retailers must make sure the products they sell comply with UK regulations.
‘All of the vapes seized in this operation had oversized tanks and none of them had been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).’
An unnamed parent who found her teenage son’s drawer full of colourful disposable vapes also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘I found disposable vapes clearly designed to be attractive to youngsters.
‘It was an array of colours but actually the drawer was just full of these vapes and I was really shocked to find that.’
Last month, the BBC discovered ‘highlighter vapes’, confiscated from youngsters at a college in Kidderminster, contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium.
The gadgets, which can cost as little as £5, were over 9.6 times the safe level of nickel and 6.6 times the safe level of chromium.
Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting.
In efforts to curb the UK’s teen vaping crisis, some secondary schools have already taken to installing devices to detect whether children are vaping.
Data released in March revealed some sensors are being set off up to 22 times a day.
Last month, health minister Neil O’Brien confirmed the Government’s ambition to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s as well as the colourful packaging and candy flavours they use to lure kids in.
He announced that policymakers would listen to experts from all corners on how best to tackle the crisis. At the same time, he also revealed a £3million taskforce would be established to enforce the current rules of selling of vapes.
But under the anti-smoking push, a million cigarette addicts will also get e-cigarette ‘starter kits’ as part of a ‘swap to stop’ scheme.
The free kits are set to be offered to almost one in five of all smokers in England at an estimated cost of £45million over two years.
Health chiefs hope the world-first policy will make England smoke-free, despite a torrent of evidence cataloguing the health risks of vaping.
Almost every high street in the country now has a designated shop where e-cigs are paraded.
However, despite the warnings surrounding vaping, health chiefs insist it is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.
Around six million people smoke in the UK and it is estimated to cause 64,000 deaths every year.
It also costs the NHS £2.4billion every year to treat smoking-related conditions.
Rates have plunged over the past decade, but experts say it is still not close enough to reach the smoke-free goal.
Vaping rates have exploded over the same time, however.
Everything you need to know about e-cigarettes
How much nicotine is in an e-cigarette?
There are many different brands of e-cigarettes, containing various different nicotine levels.
The legal amount of nicotine in an e-liquid capacity in the UK is 20mg/ml equating to between 600 and 800 puffs.
The Elf Bar 600, one of Britain’s most popular vapes, is advertised as coming in nicotine strengths of 0mg, 10mg and 20mg.
How many cigarettes are ‘in’ an e-cigarette?
The Elf Bar 600 contains the equivalent to 48 cigarettes, analysts say.
It delivers 600 puffs before it needs to be thrown away, meaning, in theory, every 12.5 puffs equate to one cigarette.
Experts say for many e-cigarettes, 100 puffs equate to ten normal cigarettes.
Elf Bars are a brand of e-cigarettes often sold in snazzy colours and with child-friendly names and flavours, like blue razz, lemonade and green gummy bear
Is vaping better for your health than cigarettes?
Vaping products are considered to be better than cigarettes as users are exposed to fewer toxins and at lower levels, according to the NHS.
The health service adds that vaping instead of smoking cigarettes reduces your exposure to toxins that can cause cancer, lung disease and diseases of the heart and circulation, such as strokes and heart attacks.
Public Health England, which is now defunct, published an expert independent review in 2015 concluding that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.
However vaping is not risk-free, as while levels in tobacco-products are much higher, e-cigarettes still contain harmful toxins, according to a study by researchers from the Medical University of Silesia in Poland.
And Dr Onkar Mudhar, a London dentist who posts videos on TikTok, said Elf bars can cause gum inflammation, swelling and bleeding.
He said this is because nicotine dries out your mouth and reduces saliva, causing irritation from a build-up of bacteria and food that can’t get washed away.
Nearly 350 hospitalisations due to vaping were logged in England in 2022, which are thought to be mainly down to respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, lung inflammation and, in severe cases, respiratory failure.
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