Responding to an investigation from the BBC which found that vapes confiscated from school pupils contained high levels of lead, nickel and chromium, Dr Penelope Toff, BMA public health medicine committee chair, said:
"These findings are extremely concerning – for parents, guardians and teachers and for all of us that care about the health and wellbeing of our country’s children and young people.
"Vapes and e-cigarettes were designed as a smoking cessation tool and still have a place, alongside other support, for those struggling to kick the habit. They should never be exploited to recruit new smokers, especially not children. The BMA has long urged caution and called for more research to understand the potential negative long-term effects of vaping.
"We do know that the numbers of 11-17 year olds using e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2021 to 2022 which is worrying enough. Today’s new evidence shows that children are clearly using some products that contain high levels of lead and other substances, which can potentially cause brain damage and cancer. The products investigated are illegal but even approved e-cigarettes contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals, underlining that this is not a 'safe' habit for children.
"Legislation needs to be tightened up; with plain packaging and health warnings on boxes and a limit on the flavours available. As with cigarettes, shops should not be displaying these products where children and young people are likely to be drawn into buying them and thus exposing themselves to preventable harms.
"These products, currently designed in bold, bright colours and flavoured like sweets, are clearly being marketed at young people and it is high time we recognised their inherent dangers as well as the risks of addiction, potentially leading to the use of tobacco products. We need to do much more to protect those who are most vulnerable and give our children the best start in life."
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.