During an interview with Sky News recently the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the government wants to put a stop to underage vaping after admitting that more and more young people under 18 are using e-cigarettes. This follows an announcement earlier this month by Health Minister Neil O’Brien that the government is creating a specialised national ‘flying squad’ to enforce the rules on vaping and tackle illicit vapes and underage sales.
The latest research published by NHS Digital, Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England, showed that e-cigarette use has risen to 9%, up from 6% in 2018 in secondary school pupils in England in years 7 to 11. The survey of pupils mainly aged between 11 and 15 conducted between September 2021 and February 2022 also found that 1 in 5 (21%) of 15-year-old girls were classified as current e-cigarette users.
In his speech to the Policy Exchange thinktank Health Minister Neil O’Brien said the government would provide £3 million of new funding and the specialised unit would help to improve training and enforcement capacity in Trading Standards so that staff can undertake specific projects such as test purchasing in convenience stores and vape shops.
The national programme, O’Brien added, would help share knowledge and intelligence across regional networks, including on organised crime gangs. He also said the government would produce guidance to help build regulatory compliance and there would be more action to remove illegal products from shelves and at the UK borders.
Additionally, the Department of Health and Social Care’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has launched a consultation calling for evidence “to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children (people aged under 18) accessing and using vape products, while ensuring they are still easily available as a quit aid for adult smokers.”
The government was responding to the growing concerns about illegal vape products and underage vaping as well as specific demands from public health charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), local government and trading standards organisations for action.
ASH stated in February youth vaping had grown rapidly and the fastest growth has been in the new single use or disposable e-cigarettes which have come on to the market in the last few years and are cheap and widely available. These, ASH said, are now the most used product among young people who currently vape, up more than 7-fold from 7% in 2020 and 8% in 2021, to 52% in 2022.
The promotion of vaping to appeal to young people was also commented on recently by the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, speaking to MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee in February when he gave evidence for their inquiry into Prevention in health and social care.
He said: “Marketing vaping, an addictive product which has unknown consequences on developing minds, to children is utterly unacceptable and yet is happening. We know it is happening as, although from a low base, the rates of vaping have doubled in the past couple of years.”
Recognising the impact of young people vaping
The rise in vaping among young people has had a big impact on schools. Unfortunately students are choosing to vape within schools, often within the toilet blocks. This has been noticed by the school inspectorate, Ofsted.
Ofsted identified vaping as among the problems with at least one further education college in the south of England and a secondary school in northern England that has led to them receiving ratings of inadequate and requires improvement respectively. Vaping in both the educational establishments was combined with other problems of poor behaviour, lack of respect for staff and sometimes evidence of students skipping lessons.
Last September, at the beginning of the academic year, ASH published guidance for schools to help them manage the problem and is particularly aimed at designated safeguarding leads and PSHE teachers.. The core message within the guidance, which is backed by the government, is that vaping is not for children and that while it can help people quit smoking, if you don’t smoke don’t vape. The guidance is available alongside more extensive ASH youth vaping resources for local authorities, schools and parents.
A study by the University of Queensland in Australia published in 2021 found that a majority (63%) of the videos uploaded on the social media platform TikTok between January 2019 to November 2020 portrayed vaping in a positive light. These particular videos were collectively viewed over 1.1 billion times. The effect of social media on young people’s decision to vape is one of the issues the UK government has mentioned in its call for evidence on youth vaping. As the government acknowledges, while they want to promote vaping as an important tool to help adults quit smoking, they do not want a separate problem of children, who would never smoke, choosing to vape.
At the launch of the ASH guidance last September Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, said: “We understand that it can be difficult for schools to know what to do about vaping, particularly when online promotion on social media sites like TikTok, is fuelling its use.
“A whole school approach is needed to address both smoking and vaping, making it part of the curriculum, highlighting the risks, and arming children with the facts so that they can make informed choices. It’s important to remember that the harms to health are significantly greater from smoking.”
Monitoring and tackling young people vaping
The schools are increasingly recognising the need to understand the scale of the vaping problem they have and to then work with students to reduce the problems. We were introduced to the HALO Smart Sensor through our relationship with North American CCTV manufacturer Avigilon, part of Motorola Solutions.
However, we, and our parent company Ecl-ips, identified the huge potential of this sensor in the UK to help monitor young people vaping within schools and other buildings. We then decided to work with IPVideo Corporation, the US developer and manufacturer, directly so we could focus on supporting schools in the south-west of England.
The HALO Smart Sensor is one of a number of products that are marketed as providing vape detection. However, as we remind people who get in touch there are some key differences that make the HALO stand out from its rivals, which is important when you are looking at the prices that might be quoted.
HALO: smart vape detection within schools
IPVideo Corporation states that the HALO Smart Sensor is the only vape detector on the market that is able to trace THC oil given off by vapes, along with the other traditional smoking methods. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is found in cannabis/ marijuana and is an illegal substance in the UK.
The HALO can also detect when vaping has been masked by spraying another substance, such as a deodorant, to cover up the smell of cannabis or other vaping smells. Unfortunately both of these can be issues when young people are vaping.
A dynamic vape detection algorithm is used by the HALO learn the environment and alert when vaping is detected. The smart technology developed by IPVideo Corporation means the HALO is the only product that can alert and differentiate between vaping, vaping with THC, and intentionally masking Vaping behaviour by using aerosols to cover up vaping.
It has the most comprehensive health monitoring of all the smart sensors and has the added benefit of further protecting people through its detecting of abnormal noise levels and picking up keywords which could signal an emergency situation. The HALO is the only major vape and health detector that integrates with other systems like this.
Detection of abnormal noise levels and cries for help
Schools are often finding that it is not just the vaping itself, it is the anti-social behaviour that can be associated with this that also becomes a problem. This means other pupils become worried about going to the toilets and there is more noise caused when several children congregate and sometimes toilet blocks become vandalised.
With the ability to detect loud noises, which could also suggest aggression between students, schools can get notifications quickly. Additionally, the HALO Smart Sensor can be combined with CCTV near toilet blocks so those who are suspected of vaping are dealt with more easily. Additionally, if students try to tamper with the device they will not be able to damage it because it has a IK 10 rating making it vandal resistant.
Real-time notifications and an open system mean monitoring is simple
The HALO is always providing vape detection with no delay in event notifications and alerts. Notifications can be received by email or, with an additional integration, by text message.
Unlike other smart sensors the HALO is a standalone device so once you have bought and installed it you are not obliged to have any ongoing costs. We will take care of setting up the HALO Smart Sensor for you, including ensuring the latest firmware is always up to date and that all your requirements for detection are set up correctly. Then the sensor will literally work out of the box once plugged into the POE cable.
If you have multiple devices it could be worth investing in a subscription for HALO Cloud as this will give you an online dashboard allowing to see all the notifications from the devices in one place and means you can see historical data but this is your choice.
The other great advantage of the HALO smart sensor is that it is an open API device meaning it is easy to connect to other software. It can also integrate with other security systems like CCTV, including Avigilon Unity Video, formerly Avigilon Control Center. The notifications from the HALO can then be received within these third-party systems. We offer a range of security and monitoring solutions but where we can we aim to integrate these to give you a better user experience.
Why should you choose the Halo?
If you choose the HALO, you will obtain not just a vape detector, but the most effective vape detection system on the market with the added benefit of being able to detect THC and vape masking as well as being vandal resistant. Additionally, it can integrate with other software to help you manage notifications more easily. So, if you are based in south-west England and you are looking for a discrete and powerful way to help combat vaping among young people who are at risk of harm whether in schools, or other places, then please get in touch.