Most youngsters who vape also smoke, debunking the theory that the one discourages the other, the Trimbos addiction institute has warned.
In 2023 10% of 12 to 14-year-olds had smoked an e-cigarette, rising to almost a quarter in the 15 to 17 age group, Trimbos figures show. The under-18s are not supposed to be able to buy vaping equipment and liquids.
Almost a third of 12 to 25-year-olds smoke and almost seven in 10 youngsters who vape also light up, the Trimbos survey found.
“That is a worrying development,” epidemiologist Esther Croes told broadcaster Nos. “It is nonsensical to say that youngsters are better off experimenting with an e-cigarette than with tobacco. They are being exposed to damaging toxins in cigarettes as well as vapes,” she said.
Apart from substances causing lung damage, some vaping liquids contain nicotine salt which is easily absorbed by the brain, accelerating the addiction process, Croes said.
“In the long term this can cause developmental problems which can lead to a lack of concentration and anxiety. In the short term it can lead to nicotine poisoning, with dizzy spells or an epileptic fit,” she said.
The upcoming ban on flavoured vaping liquids does not go far enough, the Trimbos Institute said. “In an ideal situation we would remove vaping liquids from the market altogether, with doctors prescribing them only for people who want to stop smoking,” Croes told the broadcaster.
Parents should also talk to their children about the effects of vaping, she said, a move supported by Artsen slaan Alarm (doctors raise the alarm), a group of doctors who posted a video on TikTok to denounce vaping among influencers. They have also started a campaign to raise awareness among parents.
Schools should also do their bit to discourage vaping and smoking, Croes said. “Children should know that they are being used by the tobacco industry which is earning big bucks by making them addicted,” Croes said.
Junior health minister Maarten van Ooijen told RTL Nieuws the figures were “shocking” but that the ban proposed by the Trimbos Institute would contravene European rules.
A spokesman for vaping industry body ESBN told the broadcaster that “vaping is not for people younger than 18. The government would do better to carry out age checks and that is not happening. If you ban something, they will find a way of getting vapes illegally,” he said.
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