The Principal Overview and Scrutiny Officer informed the Committee that Ms Stobbart had submitted a question prior to the meeting regarding vaping and invited Ms Stobbart to ask her question.
Ms Stobbart stated that nationally vaping was viewed as a safer alternative to smoking and expressed concern regarding the number of young people who vaped with many who had previously never smoked and were under the age of licensing. She raised her concerns about second-hand vaping giving examples of vaping around children and whether this posed any health risk and was also concerned whether there were any links to respiratory diseases. She described the success of the stop smoking campaign and asked whether there were any plans to do something similar for vaping. She asked whether any research existed in County Durham and if there were plans to communicate messages to the public regarding any potential risks.
A Healy, the Director of Public Health emphasised that whilst vaping was important and a key area of work, smoking remained the biggest killer and was much more harmful than vaping due to the content of nicotine and tar. She explained that as smoking was an addictive habit, everything had to be done to tackle this area and to support those that smoked to give up. She confirmed that there was no evidence that second-hand vaping was a risk to health and informed the Committee that vaping was 95% safer than smoking although only 30% of adults were aware of this. She advised that a large piece of research had recently been published and that this would be shared with the Committee once the local data was known. She agreed that the number of young people that smoked and vaped was concerning and that information regarding this was to be circulated to Headteacher’s following the results of the research. She gave assurances that they were being proactive with regards to vaping and suggested that an in-depth discussion regarding this topic be arranged for a future meeting of the Committee and that it would be helpful for the meeting to include someone from trading standards.
Councillor Jopling commented that she had observed many young people vaping and that the different flavours available attracted a younger audience. The Director of Public Health agreed but stated that as tobacco killed two in every three people, the priority was to ensure that young people did not smoke. She explained that locally there was the smokefree tobacco control alliance and Stoptober campaign, but that further work was being considered around schools to raise education and awareness.
That a briefing be given to the Committee on the results of the national vaping research referenced once an analysis of the results had been undertaken.