Call to outlaw sale of vapes to young people

Counci Vapes linzi mclaren

By Lesley Walsh

VAPES are now as much an accessory to children and young people as mobile phones, it has been warned, as local councillors call for action to outlaw the electronic smoking devices among younger generations. 

Ards and North Down councillor Linzi McLaren made the comparison as she called on the local authority and Stormont to act to strengthen enforcement over the sale of single use vapes to the underaged.

The Ulster Unionist councillor said that not only do they pose as yet unknown dangers to children’s health, they also contain lithium batteries which are hazardous to the environment. She said up to £5 million worth of single use vapes are estimated to have been disposed of every year.  

In her motion to members of the council’s Community and Wellbeing committee she further called on the government to ban the import of illicit vapes, which often end up in the hands of children.

The committee heard how the council had carried out 46 test approaches – to test shops’ adherence to regulations – resulting in five recorded offences.

Mrs McLaren’s party colleague Stephen Hollywood seconded the motion, and said it was a ‘very important motion’ particularly in light of today’s ‘unethical marketing practices’, designed to appeal to children.

He added that it was ‘deeply concerning’ that children and young people who had never smoked before were trying vapes.

Independent councillor Wesley Irvine agreed it was a ‘major issue’ and said their marketing, using ‘bright packaging and flavours, often beside confectionery items’ had led to a large number of 11 to 17 year-olds having tried them. He said he had even read that vapes were ‘leading to stress in teens’.

Councillor David Chambers, of the UUP, said the vapes trend reminded him of the fashion for so-called ‘alcopop’ drinks.

“We don’t know the long-term effects and harm, particularly of those illegally imported ones,” he said.

He revealed that his own child in primary school had said some in P7 were using them. “It’s very alarming,” he said. “It could be the gateway to more harmful things down the line.”