Home > Disposable vapes and young people. Faculty of Paediatrics position statement.

Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Faculty of Paediatrics. (2023) Disposable vapes and young people. Faculty of Paediatrics position statement. Dublin: Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

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The Faculty of Paediatrics at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland strongly supports the introduction of legislation to ban disposable vapes to protect the health and wellbeing of children and young people, who are using them in alarming numbers. In a position paper, the Faculty of Paediatrics says that disposable vapes are the most frequently used vaping devices among young people, and that the use of vapes by children and young people poses serious health risks to them. The environmental damage of disposable vapes is also well documented.

Professor Des Cox, a representative of the Faculty of Paediatrics, and Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine, says that vaping is harmful and has significant long-term health risks for children and young people, whose brains and bodies are still developing. “Exposure of children and adolescents to nicotine can lead to long-term negative impacts on brain development, as well as addiction. Aerosols in most vapes contain toxic substances, associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lung disorders,” Prof Cox says. “Nicotine, which is highly addictive, is the major psychoactive component of vaping solution.” “The potential negative health impacts of vapes include chest symptoms such as cough, wheezing, asthma exacerbations, but there is also a significant risk of dependence and neurotoxic effects on the not fully matured brain. Doctors need to be equipped to speak to their patients about these ill effects and provide clear guidance” Prof Cox says.

Professor Louise Kyne, Dean of the Faculty of Paediatrics and co-author of the position paper, says doctors and paediatricians need to take an active role in discouraging vaping among young people. “The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland is committed to providing practical information and the latest available data to our doctors,” Prof Kyne says. The college welcomes recent comments by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, that signal his intention to introduce legislation to ban vapes. Prof Cox has also met with Minister Ossian Smyth to support his efforts to ban vapes on environmental grounds.

According to the paper, digital marketing campaigns are disproportionately targeting young people. “Clever campaigns on TikTok and Instagram, and the array of flavours and colours, are making disposable vapes more desirable to young people. It reminds me of the unregulated tobacco campaigns of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s,” Prof Cox says. “We must adopt stronger legislation on the advertising and marketing of vapes and ban the use of flavours, other than tobacco flavour.”

The Next Generation of Smokers

Research shows that dual use of vapes and conventional cigarettes is the most common behaviour among adolescents in Ireland. There is also a gateway effect. A review by the Health Research Board in Ireland found that young people who had ever used a vape were three to five times more likely to start smoking compared to those who never used vapes. “International research strongly suggests those vaping today will take up smoking at some point in the future. So, effectively what we are doing is creating the next generation of smokers,” Prof Cox says. “This poses significant lifetime health risks for our children and young people.” The paper also calls on post-primary schools to encourage the use SPHE content on vaping developed by the HSE, and for a national HSE-led information campaign which appeals to children and young people. 

Disposable vapes are an environmental hazard.

“As a global society we have committed to reducing our negative environmental impact and tackling climate change,” Prof Cox says. “As disposable vapes continue to grow in popularity, their negative environmental impact grows. Even when recycled properly – which doesn’t always happen – the process of recycling disposable vapes is labour-intensive and expensive. “The argument is sometimes made that some people quit smoking using disposable vapes but vapes are not licensed stop smoking medicines in Ireland and health claims that vapes are effective smoking cessation aids are not supported by scientific evidence.” “If something is causing environmental damage and has serious health impacts for our young people, it seems an obvious solution to ban disposable vapes entirely.” “There are other proven smoking cessation aids that are more effective and have a lesser environmental impact.” The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland supports the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly’s recent call to ban disposable vapes and will continue to advocate to government to push this bill through.”

Item Type
Publication Type
Drug Type
Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Prevention, Harm reduction, Policy
October 2023
10 p.
Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
Corporate Creators
Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Faculty of Paediatrics
Place of Publication
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