More than one third of young Irish teenagers say they vape and never smoked before, according to a new study.
According to the National Drugs Library, 14.4% of teenagers in Ireland smoked tobacco in 2019.
By contrast, a new study from Foróige Sligo suggests more than a third of 13-16 years-old vape even though they never previously smoked.
Speaking to Lunchtime Live, 22-year-old Rebecca said the only thing that “surprised” her was that the figures are not higher.
“Without doubt, I think [vaping] is extremely common,” she said.
“I’m not surprised that the smoking isn’t part of it; I think vaping is considered more trendy - it’s more common, it’s more easily accessed.”
Within her own social circle, Rebecca estimates more than one-in-three vape and most of them never smoked tobacco beforehand.
“They’re considered less dirty than cigarettes,” she said.
“You can use them inside, they’re colourful, they’re attractive to look at, they’re more attractive to be around.
“So, you don’t have to actually physically get up and leave the house or a pub to vape, you can do it in a lot of places sitting down.”
Whereas it is illegal to sell cigarettes to people under the age of 18, the Government only this year announced it would introduce similar restrictions on vapes.
It means many thousands of teenagers have grown up buying e-cigarettes perfectly legally.
“They are easy to access,” Rebecca said.
“A lot of places that sell vapes don’t ID; I’ve worked in corner stores and newsagents before and 100%, the thing that we sold most was vapes.
“We did ID but I can 100%, see how if you were to ID every person buying a vape, it would probably take all day every day.”
The HSE describes vapes as potentially “less harmful” than tobacco but notes the technology is still new and, “We do not know the long-term health impact of vaping.”
The health service also states vapes may change how a person's vital organs function, increasing the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease and cancer.
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Main image: A teen vaping on the street. Image: Steven Gill / Alamy