A headteacher has warned that children are so addicted to vaping that they’re often waking up in the middle of the night to vape.
Headteacher at Saint John Henry Newman Catholic College in Oldham Glyn Potts said that vapes have become part of a daily routine for many young people.
It is still illegal to sell vapes to anyone under 18 in the UK.
However, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled, with 20.5 per cent of children aged between 11 and 17 having tried vaping in 2023.
20.5 per cent of children aged between 11 and 17 have tried vaping
Saint John Henry Newman Catholic College in Oldham, Greater Manchester
Potts said that despite the fact the number of vapes the school has seized since September has more than halved since the same time last year, he doesn’t believe kids are vaping any less, they’re just getting better at hiding it.
He added: “The children know that our fire alarm system is of such sensitivity that if they were to use a vape, it would set off. We changed our curriculum and now so there are more lessons on the dangers and risks of vaping. But I don’t believe it’s necessarily changing the take up of vapes beyond the school grounds.
“If you’re addicted to a vape, you’re actually addicted to nicotine. We have stories of young people waking up in the night to use their vapes for the nicotine.
“How does that feature when it comes to exams, where they will be in the room for two and a half to three hours? Parents are saying, well, you need to put in place what we call exam contingencies, where ‘they’ll need their own room’.”
He said that any solution needs to involve collaboration between schools, the NHS, and government. He has called on the government to investigate the impact of vape pens, “both in terms of the nicotine use and the impact on the adolescent brain”.
According to the head teacher, devices should be banned from off licences and corner shops and he stressed the need for additional support and funding around the implications for young people who are addicted to vapes, adding public services are not ‘equipped’ to manage the problem.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We know there has been a surge in vaping amongst children, and we are committed to reversing this trend.
“The health advice is clear: if you don’t smoke, don’t vape – and children should never vape.”
Glyn Potts is calling on the government to ban the sale of vapes in off licences and corner shops
The spokesperson added: “That’s precisely why we have already taken action and consulted on ways to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children and young people, including restricting flavours and descriptions so they’re no longer targeted at children.
“We are also cracking down on those selling vapes illegally to children by providing an additional £30 million each year for enforcement agencies to tackle illicit vapes and underage vape sales.”
The government is set to publish the response to its public consultation.
A spokesperson said it will confirm the next steps it will take to ensure its proposals become law ‘as quickly as possible’.