The number of children who are vaping has doubled in just four years, official figures have revealed.
Overall use of e-cigarettes among young people remains low but the habit is growing, with children as young as 11 admitting to using the gadgets.
Experts fear kids are being drawn in as they think it is ‘cool’ and do not realise flavoured e-cigarettes also contain nicotine.
Children as young as 11 have admitted using the gadgets (Picture: Shutterstock / Bulgn)Public Health England (PHE) commissioned the report into surveys of e-cigarette use among young people.
The most recent was the Action on Smoking and Health YouGov survey of more than 2,000 children aged 11 to 18 in 2018.
It showed that 11.7% of 11 to 18-year-olds in 2018 had tried e-cigarettes once or twice at some point, almost double the 6.5% in 2014.
Awareness of vaping is also on the rise, with the proportion of kids who said they had never tried e-cigarettes falling from 91.5% in 2014 to 83.4% in 2018.
Some 3.4% of those polled in 2018 reported using e-cigarettes – more than double the 1.6% in 2014.
Experts fear the habit is on the rise among kids because they think it is ‘cool’ (Picture: PA)The report said: ‘Experimentation and use of e-cigarettes has been increasing steadily over time.’
There was also a definite link between vaping and smoking, researchers said, with smokers far more likely to try vaping than those who had never smoked.
When youngsters who had tried an e-cigarette were asked why, 57.2% said they wanted to give it a try, while 16.1% said they liked the flavours.
The survey also found the proportion of children trying vaping before a tobacco cigarette rose from 8% in 2014 to 21% in 2018.
Researchers said that while England ‘continues to take small progressive steps towards ensuring vaping remains an accessible and appealing alternative to smoking’, more can be done.
They said more smokers may be attracted to vaping if a licensed e-cigarette was available and barriers to ‘licensing and the commercialising of licensed products need further exploration’.
Professor John Newton, health improvement director at PHE, said the UK was ‘not seeing a surge in e-cigarette use among young people in Britain’.
He added: ‘While more young people are experimenting with e-cigarettes, the crucial point is that regular use remains low and is very low indeed among those who have never smoked.
‘We will keep a close watch on young people’s vaping and smoking habits to ensure we stay on track to achieve our ambition of a smoke-free generation.’