Children experimenting with e-cigarettes, new research finds

Young children across Wales are experimenting with e-cigarettes, a research study published by the Welsh Government reveals.

The findings show 6% of 10 to 11-year-old children report having used an e-cigarette, compared with 2% who report having smoked a tobacco cigarette. The vast majority of children who said they had used an e-cigarette had never smoked a tobacco cigarette.

The latest Childhood Exposure to Tobacco Smoke (CHETS Wales 2) study – commissioned by the Welsh Government – assesses changes in children’s exposure to smoking in cars and homes since the original study took place in 2007 and 2008. In addition, the 2014 study included data on children’s use of e-cigarettes.

Key findings include:

•E-cigarette use appears to represent a new form of childhood experimentation with nicotine – more 10 and 11-year-olds have said they have tried e-cigarettes than cigarettes containing tobacco

•Overall, 6% of children report having ever used an e-cigarette, compared with 2% who reported having ever smoked a tobacco cigarette

•The vast majority of those children who reported having used an e-cigarette had never smoked a tobacco cigarette

•E-cigarette use is more common among children whose parents smoke. Among children whose parents smoked, 8% report having used an e cigarette, compared to 3% of those whose parents did not

•Among non-smoking children who reported having used an e cigarette, 14% reported that they might start smoking within the next two years, compared to 2% of those who had not used an e cigarette

•While few children said that they will smoke within two years, children who had used an e-cigarette were substantially less likely to say that they definitely will not smoke, and more likely to say that they might.

The Welsh Government put forward proposals in the Public Health White Paper to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places, bringing them into line with current laws on conventional cigarettes.

Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“These latest findings shine further light on the potential impact of e-cigarettes on our children and young people. I am concerned the use of e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to and re-normalise smoking, especially for a generation who have grown up in a largely smoke-free society.

“We are not alone in our concerns – the World Health Organisation and other international bodies have called for greater regulation of e-cigarettes, including restrictions on their use in enclosed public spaces and bans on sales to children and young people.”

CHETS Wales 2 also examined exposure to second-hand smoke in cars and homes. It found:

•Nine per cent of children said smoking was allowed in their family vehicle – a decline from 18% in 2008

•Among children with smoking parents, 20% reported that smoking was allowed in their family car – a decline from 35% in 2008

•Four per cent reported being exposed to smoke in a car the previous day – a decline from 7% in 2008

•In 2008, 33% of children reported they had at least one parent figure who smoked in their home, falling to 22% in 2014.

Ministers recently consulted on whether smoking in private vehicles should be prohibited when children under the age of 18 are present. The consultation has now ended.