An increasing number of children have been found to have taken up vaping, a new report has said, and have linked the rise to being influenced by social media sites such as TikTok.

The study, shared exclusively with the PA news agency, shows newer, disposable e-cigarettes are increasing in popularity. They cost around £5 each and come in a wide range of fruity flavours.

Data from the survey of children, carried out for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and part-funded by the Department of Health, shows many youngsters are attracted to the devices, which appear on social media sites such as TikTok and Instagram.

Some 2,613 children across Great Britain took part in the survey, carried out by YouGov in March, which informed ASH’s report.

South Wales Guardian: Products in a vaping shop (Nicholas.T.Ansell/PA)Products in a vaping shop (Nicholas.T.Ansell/PA)

The overall results showed that while “regular use of e-cigarettes has significantly increased”, most (84%) of 11 to 17-year-olds have never tried e-cigarettes, and the vast majority of current vapers are smokers or former smokers.

The data showed the proportion of children aged 11 to 17 currently vaping has jumped from 4% in 2020 to 7% in 2022.

The percentage who have ever tried vaping has also risen, from 14% in 2020 to 16% in 2022.

In 2013, just 3% of children aged 11 to 15 had ever vaped, but this rose to 8% in 2020 and 10% in 2022.

For those aged 16 and 17, the figures jumped from 7% in 2013 to 29% in 2022. For those aged 18, it went from 9% to 41%.

Overall, 4% of 11 to 15-year-olds are currently vaping, while the figure is 14% for 16 and 17-year-olds.

When it comes to regular tobacco smoking, fewer youngsters aged 11 to 17 have smoked – down from 16% in 2020 to 14% in 2022.

Seeing vaping on social media

For the first time this year, the survey asked youngsters about awareness of the promotion of e-cigarettes.

Over half (56%) of 11 to 17-year-olds were aware of e-cigarette promotion, with awareness highest amongst those who had ever vaped (72%).

South Wales Guardian: Promotion of e-cigarettes are seen on apps like TikTok and Snapchat (PA)Promotion of e-cigarettes are seen on apps like TikTok and Snapchat (PA)

TikTok was mentioned most often as the source of online promotion (cited by 45% of children), followed by Instagram (31%) and Snapchat (22%).

Underage vapers were most likely to get their vapes from shops (47%), while 10% buy them online and 43% are given them. Fruit flavours remain the most popular type (57%), according to the survey.

When it comes to why youngsters vape, ‘just to give it a try’ is still the most common reason given by never smokers for using an e-cigarette (65%).

Additionally, over the last year, a new generation of disposable vapes known as ‘puff bars’ – which contain nicotine – have come onto the market.

The most popular brands are Elf Bar and Geek Bar, according to the report, with only 32% of young vapers saying they use a different brand.

While it is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s, social media carries posts from teenagers showing the new vapes and discussing the flavours, which include pink lemonade, strawberry banana and mango.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “The disposable vapes that have surged in popularity over the last year are brightly coloured, pocket-size products with sweet flavours and sweet names.

“They are widely available for under a fiver – no wonder they’re attractive to children.”

She said more funding was needed to enforce the law against underage sales and action was needed on child-friendly packaging and labelling, and promotion on social media.