Approaches to prevent kids from vaping use abroad veer to the extreme – is this the direction the UK is heading in?
America and Australia have taken to extreme measures to try to stop underage vaping. It has resulted in some terrible cases of abuse. As Scotland becomes the first place in the UK to adopt similar measures, are we heading down the same path as abroad – and do we even need to?
What is happening abroad?
Americans and Australians are being told that vaping is bad and that there is a “vaping teen epidemic”. The media is constantly being fed with negative articles attacking e-cigarettes by organisations with a vested financial interest in promoting misinformation.
Such as who?
The Truth Initiative says it is “a non-profit tobacco control organisation dedicated to achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco.”
The “truth” is that the organisation is the beneficiary of $40 million from Pfizer and The Pfizer Foundation. Pfizer manufactures a range of traditional nicotine replacement products including inhalers and gums – products that have declined in sales since smokers opted to quit by using vapes and e-liquid.
What does the Truth Initiative do?
One of the things it does is to convince schools there is a massive problem. It has targeted American schools with advertising and training programs.
What is the result of that training program?
Despite small and declining teen usage of e-cigarettes, they have convinced schools that there is an epidemic. Consequently, some schools have taken to doing incredible things such as closing bathrooms so children can’t use the toilet and reporting kids who vape to the police.
What? Do they report children to the police for vaping?
Yes. This has gotten even worse in some instances. So far in 2022, three children have been beaten by the police while being arrested for having an e-cigarette at the skate park. The latest video online shows 17-year-old Terion Forston offering no resistance, but an officer shot him with a Taser – twice.
In another example, Katherine Williams was vaping in a school bathroom, reported to the police, and then beaten by two officers while walking home.
What is happening in the United Kingdom?
To date, the entire UK has taken a pragmatic and evidence-based approach to vape and tobacco harm reduction. Recently, some organisations in Scotland have been pushing for the nation to ignore the UK’s successful method of combatting smoking illness and disease and follow the poor advice from the World Health Organisation – copying the USA.
This has included whipping up baseless fears over a Scottish teen vaping epidemic, something not supported by the data.
What has been the result of this?
Cathkin High School near Glasgow became the first UK school to close its toilets in a “crackdown on vaping”.
Is there a widespread problem at Cathkin?
No, not according to one parent, who said: “It’s been extremely heavy-handed and feels like all the pupils are being punished for a small group of girls who are vaping regularly.”
Will this approach be rolled out to other schools?
Hopefully not. Responsible vendors do not sell to children, a better solution might be to crack down on the bad shops that break the law.
ASH UK’s annual research shows that there are negligible numbers of non-smoking teens taking up vaping. Their data consistently demonstrates that it is only smoking teens who start vaping to cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke or give up completely.