Agenda item

Impact of Vaping on Children and Young People

To consider a report from the Head of Democratic Services that provides a summary briefing on the impacts of vaping on children and young people and asks Board members to determine what, if any, further scrutiny actions will follow.


The report of the Head of Democratic Services presented an item regarding a summary briefing from the Public Health service setting out the possible impacts of increased vaping on children and young people in Leeds (Appendix 1) and to consider what, if any, scrutiny actions could follow.


The Principal Scrutiny Adviser set out the basis for the item coming forward at the Board meeting, following discussions from the meeting held on 7th June 2023. Prior to the meeting Board members suggested that a working group be established to look into the item further and in conjunction with the Adults, Health and Active Lifestyles Scrutiny Board chaired by Councillor Scopes.


The following were in attendance for this item:

  • Julie Longworth, Director of Children and Families
  • Kathryn Ingold, Chief Officer Public Health
  • Heather Thomson, Head of Public Health
  • Councillor Pryor, Economy, Culture and Education
  • Councillor Venner, Executive Member for Children Social Care and Health Partnerships
  • Councillor Lay, Otley and Yeadon Ward
  • Councillor Scopes, Chair Adults, Health, and Active Lifestyles
  • Rob Clayton, Principal Scrutiny Adviser


The Chief Officer (Public Health) introduced the item and thanked the Board for highlighted the importance of the issues associated with young people vaping. The following was highlighted:

  • There is a clear role for vapes to assist smokers quit smoking, but not non-smoking children using them.
  • Vapes contain nicotine that can be highly addictive and there is evidence of unregulated vape products with higher nicotine concentrations being sold.
  • It is reported that the proportion of children experimenting with vapes has increased by 50% nationally; in Leeds the data position is similar based on data from the ‘My Health My School’ survey.
  • The primary reason for young people trying them are experimental and whilst the vaping harm is significantly less than smoking, it is not risk-free and the long-term health impacts on young people are un-known.
  • There are concerns with the sale and regulation of vaping products. There are no restrictions on shop displays and the industry is clever at marketing vaping products.
  • Action is underway in terms of producing educational materials, presentations to key partners and working alongside West Yorkshire Trading Standards.


Councillor Lay, as one of the elected members that raised concerns about the impact of vaping on children and young people, shared his concerns with the Board, explaining that there are a number of issues in relation to marketing, production, and distribution of vapes and the impact this has on young children in terms of the health implications and the uncertainty of the side effects that they cause. Councillor Lay explained that everybody should be doing their upmost to protect children from harm and highlighted a route that Australia has taken in terms of making sure that vapes are only accessible via prescription. Councillor Lay set out a number of suggestions in terms of:

·  National legislative changes.

·  Taxing disposable vapes.

·  Education and awareness, including prevention programmes in the school curriculum and drawing emphasis on the importance of making healthy choices.

·  Providing accurate information on the harmful effects of nicotine and addiction.

·  Restricting markets and advertisement and incorporating stricter regulations around the use of vapes.


Councillor Scopes, as Chair of the Scrutiny Board Adults, Health and Active Lifestyles acknowledged the negative health implications of children and young people vaping, and set out three points of interest in terms of:

1)  What can be done locally in terms of restricting advertisement.

2)  Working with partners such as West Yorkshire Trading Standards to understand the work they’re doing to stop underage sales and where there are specific problems in terms of local shops near schools.

3)  Pressuring the Government on national legislation around sales and advertisement.


Officers in attendance added the following points:

  • The importance of providing factual information on the risks and harm associated with vaping.
  • The opportunity to be involved in a working group was welcomed by officers.
  • It was acknowledged that national legislation changes would have the biggest impact moving forward and noted that taxing changes in Scotland has been proven effective.
  • Further targeted data reporting can be undertaken, and it is acknowledged that the figures may not be completely accurate due to this being self-reported data from children.
  • The reduction in smoking rates has largely been achieved through legislative and regulatory measures including reducing marketing and access to tobacco products.
  • There is still a balance to be taken in encouraging the use of e-cigarettes to help adults stop smoking but there is work to be done in terms of dissuading experimentation and ensuring young people who do experiment, do not become into regular users.


The Board discussed the following matters:

  • What is currently being done locally and the partners involved. It is noted that educational materials are already being considered and LCC are working with academic colleagues and Trading Standards on underage sales and un-regulated vapes. It was acknowledged that vapes have become easily accessible and a concentrated piece of work is on-going with partners on retail education and responding to complaints of underage sales.
  • ‘My Health My Schools’ survey. It was confirmed that colleagues have re-assessed the questions to make sure they align with national survey to assist with comparison.
  • The Board commented that some of the marketing seems to be directly related to young people and there are a variety of different flavours that young people may find appealing. It was reported that young children are not keen on menthol and tobacco flavoured vapes but do favour fruit flavours which can be the subject of marketing.
  • The difference between vapes and cigarettes. It was noted that regulated vapes contain a lot less nicotine and tend to be used as more of a ‘grazing’ approach and to manage nicotine dependency.
  • Test purchasing and penalties on business in regard to underage sales. It was confirmed that a recent case saw a person being fined £2,000 for a business selling to an underage person. It is not certain whether that fine is enough to be a deterrent for businesses and how their business will be impacted as a result of this. It was added that anecdotally, concerns have been expressed that the city-centre is where children are able to purchase vape products largely unchallenged.
  • Members believed that the data as set out in the submitted report potentially underestimates the problem, and that usage is much higher in reality.
  • There is also an environmental impact in terms of disposable vapes and there is evidence of increased littering around schools in Leeds.
  • It was suggested that the local authority work with partners to tackle online underage sales.


In summary, the Board agreed to take this item forward in a working group involving relevant partners such as West Yorkshire Police, Trading Standards, LCC Public Health, LCC Children and Families, as well as the relevant Scrutiny Boards. The Board agreed that the promotion of vaping products needs to be looked at, as well as the health and behavioural implications associated with young children using them. It was noted that there is a possibility for the Scrutiny Board, as part of the working group, to write to the Government department to set out actions the Board feel to be appropriate in terms of marketing, distribution, and advertisement.


The Chair thanked everybody for their attendance and explained the working group as suggested and agreed by Board members will look at:

  • What the Scrutiny Board want the Government to do nationally about this issue.
  • To work with partners such as Trading Standards specifically on underage sales and what work can be done with local businesses. As well as liaison with colleagues in health and education.
  • What Leeds can do locally to ensure the local authority are seen as an exemplar city in taking an active role in tackling young people vaping. One possible option might be to consider a voluntary code of conduct on marketing vapes amongst businesses in the city seeking to get a commitment to not market vapes at young people.



a)  To note the contents of the report, and in particular the information provided on vaping usage and its impacts on children and young people as contained in Appendix 1 of the submitted report.

b)  To agree to establish a working group in conjunction with the Adults, Health and Active Lifestyles Scrutiny Board and various partners from Public Health, Children and Families as well as Trading Standards, West Yorkshire Police and Board members.


Supporting documents: