A headteacher has revealed a vape detector he installed in school bathrooms went off more than one hundred times on the first day, as Rishi Sunak sets out plans to get rid of disposable vapes to protect children’s health.
Tony McCabe, headteacher of St Joseph's RC High School in Horwich, said the vape detector alarm buzzed 112 times within the first day of it being installed.
He also recalled his horror when a student passed out after sharing a vape with someone else before school.
“Speaking to headteachers up and down the country, I don’t think there is one school where young children are not addicted to vapes,” he told This Morning.
“We cannot police it, but we must educate young people and the adults in their lives,” Mr McCabe added.
Today, pupils told the Prime Minister the problem of vaping was getting worse when he talked to teenagers during a school visit.
Rishi Sunak visited Haughton Academy in Darlington to talk about proposals to make e-cigarettes less attractive to children.
He spoke to year nine pupils, aged 13 and 14, who were learning about the issue in their personal development class.
One girl told Mr Sunak: “It’s getting worse.” She said vapes were being marketed at children, with colourful packaging.
Mr Sunak replied: “There’s no reason why kids should be doing it.”
A boy told the Prime Minister how small shops, not national stores, were selling them to children.
Mr Sunak also spoke to parents and teachers at the school, telling them some vape flavours “literally look like sweets”.
One adult told him: “It’s part of their culture. Maybe we could be stressing more on health side and what it does to their lungs – take away that fashion, take away that culture.”
It is already illegal to sell vapes to anyone under 18, but evidence shows disposable vapes – which are cheaper and sold in smaller, more colourful packaging than refillable ones – are driving the rise in youth vaping.
In 2021, only 7.7% of current vapers aged 11 to 17 used disposable vapes, but this increased to 52% in 2022 and 69% in 2023.
Mr Sunak said the rise in vaping among children is worrying, adding: “Children shouldn’t be vaping, we don’t want them to get addicted, we still don’t understand the full long-term health impacts of vaping. So it is right we take strong action to stamp this out.”
School leaders and child health experts said they are “delighted” by the governments plan, which they say prioritises the “health and wellbeing of our children and the planet”.
Dr Mike McKean, vice president for policy at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We’re delighted that the Westminster Government has heard our calls and is rightly prioritising the health and wellbeing of our children and the planet.
“As a respiratory consultant it is not lost on me that smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and disease in the UK.
“We know this because we have 60-plus years of research and data on cigarette use on a population level. But the research and data around widespread e-cigarette use is still very much in its infancy. The long-term impacts, especially for children and young people, remain unknown.”
Independent retailers have hit out on the ban, warning it will fuel an “illicit market”.
Muntazir Dipoti, National President of the Federation of the Independent Retailers, said: “While we agree that action is needed to prevent children and young people being attracted to vaping, we do not believe that banning disposable vapes is the way to go about it.
“An outright ban will simply send youngsters towards unorthodox and illicit sources where there is no compliance to tobacco and vaping laws, while the products they peddle are likely to contain dangerous and illegal levels of toxic chemicals.”