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Empowering parents to discuss vaping with young people

With over one in five 11 to 16 year olds in Northern Ireland reporting having used an e-cigarette, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is working with partners to produce information to support discussion with young people on vaping, and raise awareness of the risks it poses given the rise in its popularity.

Dr Joanne McClean, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “E-cigarettes, or ‘vapes’, are extremely addictive, so we want to highlight how this addiction can soon take a hold of young people.

“These products are constantly evolving, and their marketing is opening them up to ever-increasing audiences, with a range of flavours and colourful packaging, so we know how worrying it can be for parents who may not have come across them before or know what exactly they are. We also want to help ensure that kids and young people are aware of the risks they pose.

“The health advice is clear: young people and people who have never smoked should not vape, so we want parents and carers to be equipped with all the information they need to feel confident in discussing the risks of vaping with kids. It’s good to talk and the more openly you can discuss vaping, the more likely your child will be able to come to you if, for example, their friends are pressuring them to try it or they’ve started vaping and want to give up.

“While in absolute terms vaping may not be as harmful as smoking tobacco, the nicotine content and the unknown long-term harms of e-cigarettes mean that vaping carries risks to health and could lead to lifelong addiction for children. They can be highly addictive and withdrawal causes anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches. Teenage years and young adulthood can he challenging at the best of times, so adding nicotine addiction to the mix can make this time even harder.

“By providing information on vaping and raising awareness of the risks, we hope that we can empower families and people working in care settings to have open and engaging conversations with young people to steer them away from these products.”

Vapes are an age-restricted product. It is illegal to sell a vape to someone who is under 18 or to purchase a vape for someone who is under 18 years old.

The PHA’s new vaping resources include an information leaflet for parents and carers with advice on discussing the issue, a vaping factsheet with key details about these products, and awareness-raising posters aimed at both parents and young people which will be displayed in venues across Northern Ireland including schools, regional colleges and community and voluntary organisations.

These resources will provide factual information and advice to inform young people, teachers, parents, carers and others working with young people about vaping, the law and the associated risks, and are available at

A recent UK government consultation on creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping found a strong level of support in Northern Ireland for restricting vape flavours (75.6% of respondents) and for restrictions being placed on the sale and supply of disposable vapes (90.4% of respondents). The Health Minister has announced that, subject to Assembly approval, Northern Ireland will be included in new UK laws to tackle youth smoking and vaping. This is a great step forward in helping to protect the health of our children and young people.