While media debates on vaping and electronic cigarettes continue to produce more heat than light, ASH Scotland is working with leading youth organisations (Youthlink, Youth Scotland, Young Scot and Fast Forward) and with WLDAS to circulate some simple, practical guidance on how organisations engaging with young people should respond to the growing interest in, and presence of, these devices.
At just two pages long (and available here) our guidance doesn’t get into the fine nuances, technical details and ifs, buts and maybes of an issue where the evidence is still developing. What it sets out to do is identify the key areas of interest in a youth setting and suggest the principles that should inform a response based on supporting young people’s well-being.
The first point is that while we don’t know everything about e-cigarettes and vaping, we do know enough to be getting on with. Organisations working with young people can and should be developing a response.
Electronic cigarettes are neither safe nor harmless – but they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, as well as being less expensive and less addictive. So while we do not welcome general use of e-cigs amongst young people, it is better for anyone using tobacco to move to using an e-cig instead.
On the whole electronic cigarettes reduce harm if young people vape when they would otherwise have smoked tobacco. They are problematic if they result in more young people using nicotine, who then go on to use tobacco. Tobacco remains the prime concern and while the trends in youth smoking remain positive we will continue to monitor this closely.
The legislative environment around e-cigarettes is falling into place, with sales and provision to under-18s prohibited and advertising restrictions underway. So what should be done by schools, youth groups, youth services, colleges, residential settings and the rest?
Go and read our guidance and see.