February 27, 2022
By Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
A plea has been sounded for schools and health leaders to do more about youngsters using super-strength vapes.
More than 2,500 illegal vapes have been seized or handed in to trading standards teams in Stockton since October.
But there has been fresh worry over young Teessiders not knowing about the contents of vapes – and calls for the authorities to take more action.
Yarm councillor Julia Whitehill believed vape use was “absolutely rife” in secondary schools – and told the Stockton home safety association of her experiences.
She said: “As soon as they walk out of the back gate, they’re producing them.
“They’re all very nice colours – they’re all different flavours and they’re all very strong.”
Regulations state e-cigarettes should have tanks of a capacity of no more than 2ml – with liquids having a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml.
Selling nicotine inhaling products, cartridges containing nicotine or e-liquid containing nicotine to under 18s is against the law.
But Andrea Gledhill, from Stockton’s trading standards team, said some vapes didn’t have nicotine in them.
“There are no underage sales restrictions on them,” she added.
Cllr Whitehill told the panel she’d spoken to a school about vapes – and asked what powers the council had to do more and educate children.
The Conservative member added: “It’s rife – bad – friends of mine have got children all over the country and it just seems to be the in-thing to do, with no consequence of what they could be putting into their (bodies).”
Chairwoman Cllr Ann McCoy feared it could lead to cigarette smoking.
“It’s a bit like drugs,” she added.
“People start with cannabis, it doesn’t become enough of a high, and they go onto stronger drugs.
“It really needs a lot of work doing.”
Cllr Whitehill also shared concerns about under 18s being more susceptible to peer pressure.
She added: “Adults, if they want to smoke, vape, whatever they want to, that’s their choice.
“But certainly with children I’m worried they can’t make informed decisions.
“I’m also worried that while the schools are taking it seriously – what actual strategies have they got to educate pupils?”
Ms Gledhill said the council did have jurisdiction on underage sales and on trying to gather intelligence from schools about where illicit vapes were being sourced.
Underage sales were a cause for concern at December’s association meeting – with brightly coloured vapes aimed at younger customers and stronger products intended for the US market discussed.