Children’s exposure to vape marketing at all-time high – poll

Vapes with sweet flavours and those that taste of vanilla or chocolate are twice as popular with children (17%) than with adults (8.8%).

Disposable vapes of varying flavours on sale in a store close to Birmingham
Disposable vapes of varying flavours on sale in a store close to Birmingham (Jacob King/PA)

Children’s exposure to vape marketing is at an all-time high, with youngsters overwhelmingly opting for fruit and dessert-flavoured vapes, new data shows.

Annual survey results from Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) show children in Great Britain are increasingly aware of vape marketing, including in shops and via social media sites such as TikTok and YouTube.

The 2024 poll of 2,587 children aged 11 to 17 found that 7.6% currently vape, the same proportion as last year, but up from 2.8% in 2017 and 0.8% in 2013.

There are also indications that regular vaping among this age group is now more common (4.5%) than using vapes less than once a week (3.1%), experts behind the study said.

This is the first year that the rate of regular use (more than once a week) is higher than occasional use.

The data, shared exclusively with the PA news agency, found that 57% of child vapers and 47% of adult vapers prefer fruit as their main choice of vape flavour.

Furthermore, vapes with sweet flavours and those that taste of vanilla or chocolate are twice as popular with children (17%) than with adults (8.8%).

The data for 2024 also showed the popularity of “ice vapes” among children and teens, which are marketed as giving a “cool, icy exhale”, similar to a menthol flavour but without the deeper minty flavour.

Some 45% of youngsters who vaped said they used ice vapes, as did 65% of those aged 18 to 24.

When it comes to vapes being marketed, the poll found the proportion of children aware of vape advertising is now at an all-time high.

More than half (55%) of 11 to 17-year-olds are aware of vape promotion in shops compared to 37% two years ago, while 16% see adverts on billboards, up from 12% two years ago.

Furthermore, just 19% of 11 to 17-year-olds said they were not aware of vape promotion at all, down from 31% two years ago.

And when it comes to individual social media sites, of the 29% aware of online promotion, some 52% see vapes promoted on TikTok, up slightly from 49% last year.

Meanwhile, 32% see this on YouTube, also up from 29%.

A quarter (25%) of children polled had seen vapes promoted on Snapchat, similar to the 24% last year, while 28% had seen promotions on Instagram (same as last year).

Elsewhere, the data on disposable vapes showed they are most popular with young adult vapers aged 18 to 24 (52%) and underage child vapers aged 11 to 17 (54%).

Across all age groups, there was also a significant increase in disposable vape use from 2021 to 2023, though suggestions are this may now have peaked.

The poll also identified the most popular disposable brands as Elf Bar, Crystal Bar and Lost Mary.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said: “It is reassuring that youth vaping has not increased over the last year, but it’s not going down either.

“Tough action is still needed to curb youth vaping.

“Exposure to vape marketing among teenagers is at an all-time high and it is essential that the Tobacco and Vapes Bill is passed so the new powers to limit promotion can be swiftly enacted.

“At the same time, however, it is concerning that adults increasingly do not understand that switching to vaping would be less harmful to their health than smoking.

“Alongside the vital efforts to curb youth vaping, Government must take action to address this misperception.”

The Government’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill is currently at committee stage, which allows for detailed examination and amendments to be tabled.

The Ash poll also had detail on where youngsters buy their vapes.

Some 58% of all 11 to 17-year olds who vape report buying them from shops, off-licences or vape shops, while a quarter (27%) buy from people such as friends or family members.

More than half (52%) of youngsters who vape are given them by a friend, family member or somebody else.

Some 14% of 11 to 15-year-olds have ever used a vape, similar to 15% last year.

The poll also found 50% of adults think vapes are more than or equally as harmful as cigarettes, while 34% think they are less harmful.

Among children, 58% think vapes are more than or equally harmful, with 31% thinking they are less so.