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Children more likely to buy vapes from small shops: study

August 2, 2023

Photo: iStock

Children are increasingly exposed to e-cigarettes on display in shops, and are more likely to buy from small shops, a new study has found.

Using data from the annual ASH survey of youth vaping, collected over five years from 2018 to 2022, the researchers from Imperial College London examined where children were buying these products from and whether that changed over time.

Sources of tobacco did not change over time for children who smoked tobacco, with almost half of the children buying tobacco products from small shops and 25 per cent from supermarkets.

57 per cent of 11–13-year-olds who smoked tobacco reported buying this from small shops and 55 per cent of 11–13-year-olds reported buying e-cigarettes in small shops. Children who vaped were more likely to buy e-cigarettes in small shops in 2022 than they were in 2019, with 51 per cent buying them from small shops in 2022 vs. 34 per cent in 2019.

The analysis, published in the journal Tobacco Control, also found increases in the proportion of children reporting that they had seen e-cigarettes on display in shops. By contrast, the children reported seeing fewer cigarettes for sale, although over half of respondents had still noticed these.

In 2022, 66 per cent of children reported seeing e-cigarettes in supermarkets compared with 57 per cent in 2018. For tobacco products, the likelihood of noticing these fell from 81 per cent to 66 per cent for small shops and from 67 per cent to 59 per cent in supermarkets.

The Cancer Research UK-funded research compared 12,445 responses from respondents aged between 11 and 18.

The researchers say their findings show that greater attention needs to be paid to promotion and sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products to children.

“These results highlight high levels of exposure to tobacco and e-cigarettes among children as well as the ease of accessing these products,” Dr Anthony Laverty, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who led the research, said.

“This is despite legislation prohibiting sales to minors. There needs to be greater enforcement of existing laws on the display of tobacco, as well as action to stem e-cigarette advertising and put vapes out of sight and reach of children.”

Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), added: “Quantifying the impact on children of the growing promotion of vapes is crucial to determine the scale of the problem and how best it can be addressed. This analysis shows that in-store promotion has the biggest impact, which is why ASH is advocating that promotion and display of e-cigarettes in shops should be prohibited, as should the child friendly packaging and labelling of vapes.”