Public Health Wales has established an Incident Response Group (IRG), which are more commonly used to organise the urgent containment of incidents of communicable disease, to urgently address the use of vaping products among children and young people.
The IRG is a multi-agency group made up of experts from a variety of relevant fields including the Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, Local Health Boards, Stop Smoking Service providers, ASH Cymru, Directors of Public Protection Wales, NHS paediatric and respiratory specialists and representatives from Education and Schools.
The move follows the research by the School Health Research Network that showed that Wales experienced a rapid increase in vaping by secondary school-aged young people between 2019 and 2022, particularly among girls.
The agency added that, over the last year, feedback from parents and headteachers in Wales suggested rates may have continued to rise and that more young people are showing signs of problematic use or dependency.
The IRG will immediately set out to gather evidence to confirm the incident, gain a perspective on its scope, and investigate and identify the causes. The group will then make recommendations to reduce the risk of ongoing harm and provide opportunities for collective action to address the problem.
“Vaping has not been around long enough for the risks of long-term use to be fully understood particularly among young people where there may be greater risks to the developing brain,” Dr Julie Bishop, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health Wales and Chair of the IRG, said
“Unfortunately, there is some evidence that use of vaping products is growing among young people in Wales and schools are increasingly raising concern about the impact vaping is having on some young people’s education.
“The establishment of the incident response group will allow Public Health Wales to gain an insight into the current extent of this issue, as well as identify opportunities with partners in education, healthcare and Welsh Government to prevent further harms as soon as possible.”