Young People and Vaping

Young People and Vaping

Vaping has become more popular amongst society today and the popularity of vape shops opening in our towns are on the rise. But what is vaping? What are the facts? And why is it important to talk about it with young people? There is some confusion and misleading information about vaping, which can make it difficult to work out what's true or not. And even though nicotine vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking and an effective tool for quitting smoking, vaping is not recommended for non-smokers and young people because it is not completely harmless.

What is vaping? 

Vapes are electronic devices that let you inhale nicotine in a vapour instead of smoke. This is done by heating a solution (e-liquid) that typically contains propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavourings and nicotine.

Vaping vs Smoking 

Many people who want to quit smoking, turn to vaping and the NHS actually states that a person is roughly twice as likely to quit smoking if they use a vape compared with other nicotine replacement products such as patches and gum. And once they are in a position where they won’t turn back to smoking they can eventually aim to quit vaping too. 

However, if a young person has not not smoked a cigarette before but starts smoking vapes to begin with, the likelihood of them smoking cigarettes is greater. 

The benefit of e-cigarette vapour is that it does not contain tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke. It does contain some chemicals also found in tobacco smoke, but at much lower levels. And so for someone who is trying to quit smoking, this can be a really helpful option for them. 

The issue with Nicotine 

Nicotine is a stimulant found in tobacco and most vaping products and most of us know that nicotine is a very addictive substance, however most of us may not know that nicotine itself is not very harmful and is used safely for many years in medicines to help people stop smoking.

Other than the fact that nicotine is very addictive, in terms of health implications, the reason cigarettes are so bad is because of the thousands of other chemicals contained in cigarette smoke that cause almost all of the harm. 


So when it comes to vapes, one could argue that vaping is safer than smoking, but in reality it’s still not safe. The healthiest option is just avoid both smoking or vaping altogether. 

One can buy e-liquids for vapes with or without nicotine, with the main difference being the increased risk of addiction. And also, something to note is that one can buy e-liquids in different nicotine strengths, so a person can control how much nicotine they need to help with their cravings and/or withdrawal symptoms, which for those trying to come off nicotine can be hard as they aim to control feelings such as irritability, having a low mood,  cravings, irritability, anxiety, trouble concentrating, headaches and other mental and physical symptoms. 

Talking to young people about vaping

It's important for young people, parents, carers and anyone working with children to know the facts about vaping, especially making sure young people understand the health facts about vaping and the law, so they can make an informed choice. Young people can find out more on the FRANK website and NHS website

In the UK it is illegal to sell nicotine vaping products to someone under the age of 18, or for adults to buy these products for them. Even though the NHS recommends nicotine vaping as a way for adults to stop smoking. It isn’t recommended for non-smokers, especially children and young people under 18.

Working at Phase and chatting with teachers, it is evident that there are many loopholes as young people under the age of 18 are vaping. And they are exposing themselves to toxins that don't have extensive research yet on what the long term risks might be. 

Common side effects are of vaping include:  

  • coughing, dry mouth and throat
  • mouth and throat irritation
  • shortness of breath
  • Headaches

The UK government recognises that there are unanswered questions on the effects of longer-term use but they also recognise the need to protect young people and non-smokers from using vapes, recently putting out a blog on their Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre on How they’re cutting smoking and stopping children vaping.

Either way, the current common side effects plus the potential to be addicted to nicotine are enough to steer clear from especially for young people. But also 2 other notable things to mention is that it is also riskier for young people than for adults, as there’s some evidence that in adolescence the brain is more sensitive to its effects. And some disposable vapes on sale are illegal as they do not meet UK quality and safety regulations. 

We all have a duty to protect the lungs and brains of young people and as mentioned vapes are not harmless, and there is a minimum age of sale for vaping products in the UK for a reason. 

If you find a retailer selling either nicotine vapes or tobacco products to under-18s, you can report a retailer to local authority Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice online portal.

Facts to tell young people about vaping:

In a nutshell we all have a duty to be responsible in helping communicate to young people the facts about vaping and help encourage them to make informed choices. All of us, including young people, are faced with important choices that we need to choose everyday, whether it’s to not eat fast food for the 3rd time in a row this week or to not drink and avoid drugs, we all need to take the time to make the right informed decisions and resist peer-pressure and choices that don’t positively impact us. And so the best way is to communicate the facts and help young people and below is a list of some of the key points in this article: 

  • Vaping is a way for adults to stop smoking – not something for non-smokers, especially children and young people to try.
  • Vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking but that does not mean it is harmless.
  • 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.
  • Vaping exposes users to some toxins, and we do not yet know what the risks might be in the longer term.
  • Some vapes contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance that can be hard to stop using once you have started.
  • Nicotine may be more risky for young people than for adults, as evidence suggests the brain in adolescence is more sensitive to its effects.
  • Some disposable vapes on sale are illegal and do not meet UK quality and safety regulations.