Data on Vaping among Children
This section summarises data on vaping among children and young people both in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Surveys included cover a different range of ages from 10 year to 17 year olds. Summary data is presented covering:
- Regular (once a week or more) or current use (including both regular and occasional use)
- Ever tried (including both current use and any use in the past)
- Dual use (namely the percentage of those who currently vape and also smoke tobacco)
- Differences by socioeconomic status (measured by deprivation quintile or FAS score)
Regular or current use
Increase in regular use (Scotland) – Data from the Health and Wellbeing Census 2021/22 show a marked increase in the number of pupils vaping regularly (once a week or more) compared to the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) 2018, both among the S2 cohort (13 year olds) – from 2% to 4.3% in the Census – and the S4 cohort (15 year olds) – from 3% to 10.1% in the Census. Caution needs to be used when interpreting this comparison as findings from the Census are experimental statistics. Previosuly, between 2015 and 2018, SALSUS found that regular use remained unchanged at very low percentages (2% of 13 year olds and 3% of 15 year olds).
Increase in current use (GB) – The ASH Smokefree GB Youth survey 2022 showed that 7% in the 11-17 cohort were current users (occasional + once a week or more), compared to 3.3% in 2021 and 4.1% in 2020.
No change in regular or current use (UK) – The Understanding Society survey found that in 2020/2021 just 0.2% of the 10-15 year old participants were regular users and 1.1% were current users. With such small numbers, no clear pattern is discernible (percentages for regular use were 0.4% in 2019/2020, 0.8% in 2018/2019, 0.6% in 2017/2018 and 0.5% in 2016/2017; percentages for current use were 1.3% in 2019/2020, 1.6% in 2018/2019, 1% in 2017/2018 and 1.2% in 2016/2017).
Decrease in regular use (Wales) – The Student Health and Wellbeing Survey 2019/20 (Wales) shows that current use of e-cigarettes was rare in 11-16 year olds with only 2.5% of young people reporting at least weekly use. This percentage is a decrease from 3.3% in 2017.
Increase in ever tried among non-smokers (Scotland) – In 2018, the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) found that the number of non-smokers trying e-cigarettes had increased since 2015 from 24% to 28% among 15 year olds and from 13% to 15% among 13 year olds.
Increase in ever tried (GB) – The ASH Smokefree GB Youth survey 2022 found that 15.8% of 11-17 year olds had tried vaping, compared to 11.2% in 2021 and 13.9% in 2020. Rates have remained relatively stable since 2017 (11.2% to 13.9%) and it is not yet clear if 15.8% represents an increase. However, this is a clear increase from 3.8% in 2013 and 6.9% in 2014.
No change in ever tried (UK) – The Understanding Society survey found that in 2020/2021 6.3% of the youth aged 10-15 had ever tried vaping, similar to previous waves.
Decrease in ever tried (Wales) – The Student Health and Wellbeing Survey 2019/20 shows that more than 1 in 5 (22%) young people aged 11-16 reported having ever tried an e-cigarette, a decrease from 25% in 2017.
Increase in ever tried as children get older
Results from the Growing Up in Scotland survey (GUS) 2019 reveal that 7% of the cohort aged 12 had ever tried an e-cigarette or vaping device. This increased to 21.5% two years later when children in the sample were aged 14 (GUS 2022).
The ASH Smokefree GB Youth survey 2022 highlighted that there is a gradient in use by age. Ever use is highest among older children (29.1% among 16 and 17 year olds compared to 10.4% among 11 to 15 year olds).
The Student Health and Wellbeing Survey 2019/20 shows that ever use of e-cigarettes increased considerably with age: 6% of students in year 7 (aged 11-12) reported having tried e-cigarettes, rising to 43% by year 11 (pupils aged 15-16).
Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children 2018 (HBSC) (Scotland) reports that 3% of 13 year olds and 7% of 15 year olds said they had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days.
The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) found that in 2018 smokers in both 13 and 15 age groups were more likely than non-smokers to have ever used or regularly used an e-cigarette.
Although not recording dual use, the Growing Up in Scotland survey 2019 highlighted a clear relationship between trying a cigarette and trying an e-cigarette, with 72% of 12 year olds who had tried a cigarette also having tried an e-cigarette (compared to 5% of children who had not tried a cigarette). Thirty-nine percent of the children who had tried vaping had also tried a cigarette.
The ASH Smokefree GB Youth survey 2022 reports that 55.4% of current vapers aged 11-17 are also cigarette smokers.
The Student Health and Wellbeing Survey 2019/20 (Wales) shows that current e-cigarette use was concentrated among current smokers (38% of 11 to 16 year olds vaping at least weekly were daily/weekly tobacco smokers too).
Vaping by deprivation
The Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) survey 2019 revealed that 12 year olds living in the most deprived areas were more likely than those living in the least deprived ones to have tried e-cigarettes (13% compared to 3%). GUS 2022 reported that 14 year olds in SIMD quintile 3 were more likely to say they had tried an e-cigarette or vape than those in higher quintiles (27.2% compared to 18.7% of quintile 4 and 18.3% of quintile 5).
Data from the Health and Wellbeing Census 2021/22 (Scotland) suggest that the percentage of pupils who are regularly vaping is higher in more deprived areas for S2 and S4 pupils combined (7.8% in SIMD quintile 1 compared to 4.6% in SIMD quintile 5).
The Student Health and Wellbeing Survey 2019/20 (Wales) highlighted socioeconomic inequalities, with young people from less affluent families a bit more likely than those from more affluent families to report being current (regular) users (3% for low and medium Family Affluence Scale (FAS) compared to 2% for high FAS) or having ever tried (25% for low FAS compared to 21% for high FAS).
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