E-liquids come in a huge variety of flavours to cater for all adult tastes and the range is growing all the time. Flavours can range from fruity ejuices, dessert eliquids and sweet e-liquids all the way to menthol and tobacco flavoured vape liquids.
In the UK, the sale of vaping products and e-liquids is prohibited to those under 18 years old, but the question is: Are sweet e-liquids encouraging children to vape? Let’s look at the facts.
Vaping on the rise and smoking on the decline
The vaping industry started to really gain traction in the UK in 2007, as has the sale of a large array of e-liquid flavours. According to the NHS, there are now around 2.9 million regular adult vapers in the UK (up from an estimated 700,000 in 2012), of which 1.5 million have quit smoking tobacco altogether. This is great news as vaping has been hailed as a much safer alternative to smoking with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) saying that:
“The current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful to your health than tobacco cigarettes, a figure which has been endorsed by Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians.” – Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
A 2018 release from the Office for National Statistics states that, in those aged 16 and over, the prevalence of smoking in the UK continues to fall and people quitting cigarettes has been rising.
So, does this mean that vaping is rising among children up to the age of 18?
Youth vaping statistics
There is a lot of scaremongering in the media that children are increasingly taking up vaping, but is this actually true?
Well, according to the ASH 2018 survey, from 2013 to 2018 there has been a slight increase in 11-18-year-olds experimenting with e-cigarettes but the use remains rare at just 2% of respondents and largely confined to those who currently or have previously smoked cigarettes.
Although smoking or underage vaping can never be condoned, at the very least of those youths inclined to smoke, they seem to be favouring the safer option of vaping instead. We also can’t forget that the percentage of non-smokers vaping in any age group remains relatively small. It should be noted, however, that the number of non-smokers using e-cigarettes is likely to rise in future as the number of people smoking or having previously smoked cigarettes is generally falling.
Are sweet e-liquids encouraging children to vape?
Let’s first look at what we can conclude from the data above. We can see that:
- The number of adults vaping has grown fourfold since 2012
- Smoking rates have been declining while quitting rates have been increasing
- Over half of adults who took up vaping have chosen to quit tobacco altogether
- E-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to smoking
- In the period from 2013-2018, there has been a very small increase in the number of 11-18-year-olds experimenting with e-cigarettes, but the use remains very low
- Almost all 11-18-year-olds who do use e-cigarettes are current or ex-smokers
- The percentage of non-smokers who vape remains low in general but will likely increase as taking up cigarette smoking continues to fall
So, it would seem that although the vaping industry and variety of e-juice flavours (including sweet e-liquid flavours) have seen a huge growth since 2007, it has been adult vapers that have been at the forefront, and there has been only a very small rise among 11-18-year olds.
Are sweet e-liquids encouraging children to vape? From the evidence, the answer is no. In any case, vape industry players should continue to follow the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) guidelines when it comes to marketing and selling their products to ensure every possible step is taken that only those aged 18 or over are purchasing vape products.
That said, we don’t believe that the vaping industry needs to go down the same road as the tobacco industry with regard to branding.
As technology develops, new ways may become available to prevent children from accessing vaping products, and if better alternatives become available that ensure that only adults are purchasing the products, then those practices should be put into effect by vape merchants immediately.
Vaping is proving to be a valuable aid in helping people quit smoking. Read all about it in our article on Quitting Smoking With Vaping.
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Looking at the evidence in the article, do you think sweet e-liquids are encouraging children to vape? Do you think vape juice branding should be changed? Start the discussion in the comments below.