March 22, 2023 5.00 pm This story is over 15 months old

Collapsing children and polluted rivers: Sleaford’s vape problem

One in five 15-year-olds are vape users

By Local Democracy Reporter

Three young people collapsed in the middle of a Sleaford street after inhaling a vape device with cannabis oil inside it – the tip of the iceberg for the town’s e-cigarette crisis.

Police have warned parents after three school children were seen using vapes before falling to the ground on Friday afternoon.

All three have since recovered, and police believe the liquid inside the device had been mixed with THC oil and offered to the unknowing children.

Lincolnshire Police have sent a letter to Sleaford pupils and parents outlining concerns about young people’s vape use.

Mandy Davidson was doing the school run when she saw the three children collapse, and quickly came to their aid.

She told The Lincolnite that her fears are that vapes are contributing towards a “split in society”, as nobody rushed to help her or the children out.

Mandy said: “Numerous adults also witnessed the whole event. Shop staff stood on in the street and watched on but not one person stopped to check if I needed any help or even if the children were okay.

“As a society I feel that it is a disgrace. There are hundreds of children walking through our town everyday and no-one is willing to ensure that they are safe in times of need and distress.”

Bad for your health, bad for the planet’s health

A number of vapes dumped in the River Slea, spotted during an organised litter pick of the area. | Photo: Danny Graham

In almost every shop you enter, you will see a section behind the counter dedicated to e-cigarettes and disposable vapes, and use has soared in recent months.

They began as a practical alternative to smoking cigarettes or tobacco, but more young people are getting their hands on vapes, posing real health and environmental issues.

An NHS survey conducted in 2021 found that 18% of 15-year-olds consider themselves vape users, an alarming statistic when considering that popular brands tend to use around 20mg of nicotine in devices – the equivalent of smoking 40-50 cigarettes.

Lincolnshire County Council has reported a “significant increase” in vape usage amongst young people.

There have also been reports from Sleaford that children as young as 10-years-old are being spotted with vapes, while environmental groups are complaining at the dumping of these disposable devices.

Andrew Greenwood organises a monthly litter pick around the River Slea, and he has seen dramatic hikes in vapes being dumped in the river in recent times.

He said: “The problem of single use vapes has dramatically got worse in the last 18 months.

“The issue isn’t just to do with the single use plastics that are being dumped in the river, but the fact that there are also batteries in them. Ideally they should be restricted, or made less available as they are an increased hazard.

“I also think we could introduce separate bins for them as they have batteries; but again it is about getting the message out there that the river is not and should not be classed as a refuse bin. It is the home for a lot of wildlife.”

North Hykeham and Sleaford MP Caroline Johnson

Sleaford & North Hykeham’s MP, Caroline Johnson, has proposed a blanket ban on the sale of vapes and e-cigarettes.

Dr Johnson presented the Bill to parliament last month, arguing that preventative fines do not go far enough to reduce the accessibility of these devices for young people.

She said at the time: “The government is committed to achieving a smoke-free generation by 2030.

“Reusable e-cigarettes and vapes remain an important aid to quitting smoking, but I fear that their colourful, child-friendly flavoured, disposable counterparts are luring non-smokers into a life of addiction, which risks creating a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

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