Smoking and vaping

Vaping

An NHS survey from 2021 indicated that vaping had increased to 9% among children and young people, representing a rise of 50% from 2018. Around 1 in 5 (21%) 15-year-old girls were classified as current e-cigarette users. Additional research has found that young people who vape are also more likely to start smoking.

Vaping is not for children and young people, whose developing lungs and brains are more sensitive to its effects. It may be a useful tool to help adults stop smoking, but it is not harmless. This podcast, recorded for #AskAboutAsthma in 2023, describes the risks and discusses why vaping is so popular among young people currently. This short video outlines the areas of most concern to paediatricians about this trend.

Vaping exposes users to toxins, and we do not yet know what the risks might be in the longer term. It took many years to fully describe the links between smoking and lung cancer – which are so widely accepted today.

Most vapes contain nicotine, an addictive substance that can be hard to stop using. Nicotine is riskier for young people than for adults, as evidence suggests the developing brain is more sensitive to its addictive effects.

In the UK, it is against the law to sell nicotine vaping products to under-18s or for adults to buy them on their behalf.

More information from the NHS can be found here: Young people and vaping – Better Health – NHS (www.nhs.uk) and you can also find advice on the FRANK website. Resources about the risks of vaping for young people, developed by Smokefree Sheffield and ASH for families and schools, can be found here.

Smoking

The risks of smoking are well documented. Second hand (passive) smoking is a trigger for asthma and increases people’s risk of getting the same health conditions as smokers. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of second- and third-hand smoke (third-hand smoking is when a child breathes in the chemicals that remain on clothes, hair and skin even if an adult has smoked outside the home). A child who is exposed to passive smoke is at increased risk of developing chest infections, meningitis, a persistent cough and, if they have asthma, their symptoms will get worse.

North East London has developed smoking cessation advice and information for parents of asthmatic children. This letter can be adapted by other areas to include locally relevant information.

Children and young people may smoke themselves. Current smoking prevalence (including occasional and regular smoking) among children and young people was 6% in 2022, compared with 4.1% in 2021 and 6.7% in 2020 (source: ASH-Youth Survey, 2022, cited here).

NHS advice on smoking cessation can be found here. Note: the use of vapes or e-cigarettes is not for anyone aged under 18.

A Clinical Knowledge Summary from NICE on smoking cessation advice to 12-17-year-olds can be found here.