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The Vape Debate: Underage vaping in Canterbury and Kent’s regulatory challenges

Canterbury, known for its medieval architecture and historic tales, faces a distinctly modern issue that overshadows its streets—the alarming rise of underage vaping. This issue is stirring debates among health officials, educators, parents, and business owners throughout Kent.

The Lure of Vapes Among the Youth

At “The Pilgrims Shop,” a well-known tobacco shop in Canterbury, the staff witness first-hand the persistent issue of underage vaping. Oliver, a member of staff, shared his observations on the troubling trend.

“Every week, I see about 10 underage children smoking vapes. It’s becoming increasingly common, and not just here but in other types of stores as well,” he noted. Oliver highlighted a particular concern about non-specialist shops contributing to this issue.

“Some shops, such as phone shops, do tend to sell fake & illicit vapes to underage children,” he added.

The affordability and marketing of vapes make them particularly attractive to the younger demographic.

“Vapes are affordable, and a lot of shops do deals, so they are easily accessible. Moreover, the packaging is colourful and bright, which appeals to kids,” Oliver explained.

This theory is backed by data, suggesting that packaging and flavours are key factors in youth vaping. Efforts by local communities to educate parents and guardians about the dangers of vaping have started to gain traction, but the flashy marketing continues to undermine these efforts.

Economic Considerations Versus Public Health

The recent legislative attempts to curb this epidemic have been met with mixed reactions. A new government law aimed at tightening regulations around vape sales is seen by some as a necessary step to protect young people. However, Oliver pointed out the economic ramifications.




“The new government law is a nice idea, but it kills an important industry for people. If you change or try and ban this, then you’ll affect industries and things such as cigars. The UK government could be making money from this industry, which could be used for other services,” he argued.

He suggests an alternative approach: “Tax them like cigarettes so kids may not be able to afford them, but they will still get hold of them, and there will still be illegal imports.”

Photo Credit: Vaporesso, Unsplash


Further adding that while economic interests are significant, the priority should always be public health, particularly the health of young people who are most vulnerable to marketing strategies and peer pressure.

The Legislative Landscape

According to the “Tobacco and Vapes Bill: enforcement factsheet” from the UK government, new measures have been proposed to tackle these issues.

However, the enforcement and effectiveness of these laws remain to be seen.

A report from BBC News highlights that in Kent alone, underage vaping continues to rise, suggesting that current measures might not be sufficient to stem the tide.

A recent study by the University of Kent and the World Health Organization further emphasizes the trend, showing that young girls in Kent are now more likely to engage in smoking and vaping than boys, which indicates a significant shift in behaviour patterns among teenagers.

This shifting dynamic points to a growing need for targeted interventions that address the unique challenges faced by different demographics within the youth population.

The Psychological Impact on Youth

To delve deeper into the impact of vaping on young minds, an interview with Almeria, an aspiring Special Educational Needs (SEN) teacher, provides further insights.

Almeria addressed the psychological ramifications of vaping among children. “Vaping at a young age can lead to addiction and can significantly affect mental health, leading to anxiety and depression,” she says.

She stresses the importance of education and parental involvement in addressing these issues.

Almeria believes that schools should integrate more comprehensive programs that not only discuss the physical health risks associated with vaping but also the mental health aspects, helping students understand the full scope of the potential harm.

Community Responses and Future Outlook

The ongoing challenge of underage vaping in Canterbury and Kent highlights the need for a multi-faceted approach involving legislation, community engagement, and education.

While the government’s efforts to regulate vape sales are a step in the right direction, the testimonies of individuals like Oliver and Almeria underscore the complexity of the issue.

As the community grapples with these challenges, the focus must remain on protecting young individuals from the allure of vaping through effective education, stringent enforcement of laws, and supportive interventions.

The path forward will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders to ensure the health and well-being of the next generation.

Local initiatives such as school-based programs and community workshops can play a pivotal role in shaping a healthier future for the youth.


Feature Image : Photo by E-Liquids UK on Unsplash