Boys and girls of primary school age are becoming so ill from vaping they are ending up in hospital, a Sky News investigation can reveal.
Vaping is the inhaling of a vapour created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or another vaping device.
According to the report, figures from the National Health Service England show there were 15 cases where children aged nine or under needed to be admitted in the year to April, up from 12 last year and two the year before that.
Professor Andy Bush, a paediatric chest physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital in West London, expresses shock at the situation. The don says he’s “absolutely horrified” by the statistics.
“Young children are being exposed to substances of addiction, substances that are toxic and some of the toxicity is not known,” he said.
“If a teenager starts smoking cigarettes, probably the worst that’s going to happen to them is they’re going to be sick and throw up behind the bike shed.
“The acute use of e-cigarettes can put them in hospital, can put them in intensive care, things like lung bleeding, lung collapse and air leak, the lungs filling up with fat.”
For many smokers, vaping has been the key to quitting what is the biggest preventable cause of death.
An e-cigarette is an electronic device that simulates tobacco smoking. It has an atomizer, a power source such as a battery, and a container such as a cartridge or a tank. Instead of inhaling smoke, the user inhales vapour.
But Rachel Howe is convinced it’s what killed her 18-year-old daughter, Rosey Christoffersen in February 2015, six months after she began vaping heavily.
“She was supposed to call me at 5.30 pm but she didn’t call,” she said.
“I rang her phone and one of the ambulance crew answered and said we’re with your daughter, we’re working on her. She’d come out of work and collapsed.”
Rosey had suffered a heart attack, but what had caused it was the sudden collapse of both her lungs – a bilateral pneumothorax.
Her brain was starved of oxygen and two days later it was made clear she would not survive.
The government recently announced it would be clamping down on rogue firms unlawfully targeting teens with advertising on platforms like TikTok.
“Illicit vape enforcement squads” are also being set up at a cost of £3m to uncover the traders selling to young people.
In total, 40 young people aged up to 19 were admitted to hospital in the past year from vaping.
But John Dunne, from the UK Vaping Industry Association, says “the statistics would not exist if children were not getting their hands on vapes”.
“Every year according to the NHS some 76,000 people die from smoking, whereas there has not been one officially confirmed report of a death from vaping even though the category has been available in the UK for around the last 15 years,” he said.
“The fundamental issue that needs urgently addressing is the woeful level of enforcement of vaping age regulations across the UK.”
He wants on-the-spot fines of £10,000 to be introduced for those caught selling to young people.