Vapes aggressively marketed to young adults and children
Have you noticed that the hype and branding of vaping products seems to be targeted at young adults? A lecturer in marketing at Nottingham University has! In his article E-cigarettes should be in plain packaging – just like cigarettes Brendan Canavan notes that e-cigarette companies and resellers are drawing on cultural references that appeal to younger generations such as gaming, and making the habit look cool and rebellious, with names like Ninja.
Professor Chris Witty, England's Chief Medical Officer, agrees and goes as far as to claim that vapes are essentially being promoted to children, which he calls "appalling" and "utterly unacceptable." It is actually illegal to sell e-cigarettes to under 18s but recent research suggests that twice as many children now vape, compared to 2 years ago, with current stats indicating that 7% of children are vaping. Whilst giving evidence to the government's health and social care committee this week he said that the colours and flavours used are a clear attempt to entice children to vape.
What's the problem with vaping?
Vaping can be an important public health tool - it is far preferable to vape than to smoke tobacco cigarettes. So, for those wishing to give up smoking cigarettes, it is a positive step. However, as Chris Witty explained, we should not be encouraging non-smokers to take up vaping and we should certainly not be encouraging children to do so.
But he expressed alarm that there were “clearly” some products “which look as if they’re being marketed, in reality, at children”. “And I think we should look very seriously at these products for which the child market appears to be the principal market and say: ‘Why are we considering this to be a good thing to have?’”
Current research indicates that vaping can harm health in the following ways:
- A key ingredient of vapes is nicotine, which is one of the most addictive substances - vaping very quickly creates addiction
- Young vapers are three times more likely to take up cigarette smoking than those that don't vape - probably linked to nicotine addiction
- Vapes contain 100s of toxic chemicals and there are early indications of a link between vaping and cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and cancer
- Vaping is known to cause poisoning, burns and mouth and lung injuries
Read more here: Health impacts of electronic cigarettes
Coming back to Brendan Canavan's report, it took us over 50 years to realise the damage that had been done by the marking of cigarettes and tobacco - we should not make the same mistake again. ASH, a leading UK charity that campaigns on smoking has called for the government to tax disposable vapes, to discourage young adults and children from purchasing them:
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH, said, “Smoking is much more harmful than vaping and smoking remains the biggest threat to our children’s health. But vaping is not risk-free, and in the light of the recent increase in children vaping government action is urgently needed to tighten regulation and increase enforcement.” “Children who vape mainly use cheap disposables, which can be bought for under a fiver. They could easily be made less affordable in the March Budget with the introduction of a specific tax for single use disposable vapes. In one simple step this would reduce both child vaping and the vast quantities of single use vapes being thrown into landfill.”