Vapes – also known as e-cigarettes – have increased in popularity over the past few years.
But as their use rises, some health experts are concerned about the unknown effects long-term use could have, and especially the dangers they may pose to children and young people.
So, do experts think vapes should be banned completely or are there advantages to vaping?
FactCheck takes a look.
Could vapes be banned?
The proportion of the adult population using vapes in Great Britain increased in 2022 to 8.3 per cent – the highest rate ever – amounting to 4.3 million people.
And although selling vapes to children is already illegal and it’s an offence to buy products on behalf of a child, a recent survey found that’s not stopped more young people using them.
The YouGov survey carried out for Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) found a rise in 11 to 17-year-olds vaping, increasing from 7.7% in 2022 up to 11.6% in 2023.
It also found that about 15% of 16 to 17-year-olds and 18% of 18-year-olds are current vapers.
In May, prime minister Rishi Sunak announced a ban on vaping samples being given to children, as well as a review of the rules on issuing fines to shops that illegally sell vapes to children. The government said this could make it easier for local trading standards officials to issue fixed penalty notices and on-the-spot fines.
But despite concerns over the number of children using vapes, leading charities don’t think banning them completely for adult use is the answer, as they can aid people trying to quit smoking and pose less risks than cigarettes.
Sarah MacFadyen, head of policy at Asthma + Lung UK, told FactCheck that the charity is “concerned” that more children and teenagers are vaping, but isn’t calling for an outright ban. Instead they want a tax on disposable vapes “so they’re no longer available at pocket money prices”, as well as “firmer enforcement and regulation to control the marketing and packaging of vapes”.
Although Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research, told FactCheck the charity urges the UK government “to take urgent steps to reduce vapes from appealing to and being used by children,” she said this should be done “whilst ensuring that legal e-cigarettes can help people who want to quit smoking to do so”.
This was echoed by Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive at Action on Smoking and Health, who told Factcheck: “We do not support a ban on all or any products for adults due to their value in helping smokers to quit but we do support strong regulation to limit their use by under 18s on a precautionary basis.”
But are vapes better than smoking cigarettes?
Well, research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London found last year that the use of vaping products rather than smoking leads to a substantial reduction in exposure to toxicants that promote cancer, lung disease and cardiovascular disease.
The study found that although vaping is not risk-free, particularly for people who have never smoked, it poses a small fraction of the health risks of smoking in the short to medium term.
This is highlighted by Ms MacFadyen, who told FactCheck that “although we’d never advise someone to vape if they haven’t ever smoked”, for those who are trying to quit smoking vapes can be “incredibly effective”.
But Ms Mitchell stressed that vapes “should not be used by people who have never smoked” because their “long term effects are unknown and they usually contain nicotine, which is highly addictive”.