Public Health Wales has produced an information and guidance resource on vaping for secondary-aged learners in Wales. The document provides data and evidence-based information for schools including how they can respond to and help address vaping within their setting through policy, practices, and curriculum content.
Most children and young people don’t vape. However, studies including the School Health Research Network (SHRN) Student Health and Wellbeing Survey in Wales have shown that the use of vaping devices among children and young people in the UK has been on the rise in recent years.
A recent snapshot survey of pupils in years 7 and 10 from a small sample of Welsh secondary schools has found that the proportion of year 10 pupils using vapes every day is around 9 to 10 per cent.
While switching to vapes from smoking has a range of health benefits for smokers there is no benefit of vaping for non-smokers, particularly children and young people. For this reason, it is already illegal to sell vapes to people under 18 years of age.
Evidence regarding the health effects resulting from the use of vaping devices is very limited. However, vaping does put young people at risk of nicotine addiction, a dependency that impacts their education, behaviour and their daily life.
The snapshot survey revealed that, among Year 10 learners who reported vaping on a daily basis, around two thirds showed signs of moderate or high dependency to nicotine using a validated measure.
The impact of this dependency is being seen by schools who are also reporting increasing problems with vape use and problem behaviours as a result. Headteachers have reported that vape use has become a growing issue over the last two years leading to them having to monitor specific areas of their site for vaping (for example toilets). School leaders also reported an increase in school exclusions relating to vaping in the past academic year.
In response to the concerns expressed by Headteachers and stakeholders in education and other settings an information and guidance resource on vaping has been produced by Public Health Wales.
• Vaping devices should not be used by children and young people
• It is illegal to sell nicotine-containing vaping devices to anyone under 18 or for adults to buy them on behalf of under-18s. Those selling or suspected of selling either nicotine vapes or tobacco products to under-18s can be reported anonymously to ‘No Ifs. No Butts.’
• There are growing numbers of illegal or illicit vaping devices on sale that don’t meet the stringent quality and safety standards within the UK. These devices can be particularly dangerous as some have been found to contain very high levels of nicotine and dangerous metals like lead. Others are labelled as being nicotine-free when they do contain nicotine. Illegal vapes have been found in schools in the UK
• Vaping is safer than smoking but it is not harmless. The evidence on the long-term health effects of vaping is limited as it has not been around long enough to know the risk of long-term use
• Vaping can lead to dependence on nicotine . Dependence on nicotine can negatively affect mental health and wellbeing and can be disruptive to life and learning
• Adult smokers can reduce the risk of harm from smoking by switching completely to vaping, however vaping is not recommended for non-smokers (and should not be used by children and young people)
• If an adult, child or young person under 18 requires support to quit smoking they should seek advice from Help Me Quit, where they will be guided to the appropriate treatment pathway (age 12+)
• If a person wishes to quit vaping they can also contact the national Help Me Quit helpline on 0800 085 2219 for advice and support.
Public Health Wales will work with schools and other stakeholders to identify and develop supporting materials for secondary schools and other educational settings to support implementation of the guidance. We will share these once they become available.
We are interested in capturing your feedback on the guidance document. Please complete and submit this online form to register your feedback.