More than one in three young teenagers currently vape, research finds

Study finds that across all age groups, there is a link between appearing ‘cool’ and using vapes

More than a third of young people aged 13 to 16 years old have said they currently vape and never smoked before starting, according to new research.

The study, commissioned by Foróige Sligo, in partnership with the North West Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force (NWRDATF) and Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB (MSLETB), sought to understand the impact vaping products have on young people in Ireland.

Vaping is the common name for the inhaling of a vapour containing nicotine which has been created by an electronic cigarette.

The research questioned 900 young people aged 10 to 24, through an online survey, discussion groups and interviews.


It found that across all age groups, there is a link between appearing “cool” and vaping use. It also found the perceived social standing of vaping allows some young people to feel connected among their peers, facilitating a sense of social cohesion.

Young people consulted as part of the study felt the marketing of vapes is inherently youth-orientated and directly targets them, with a “toy-like” attraction and inventiveness of products in terms of flavour, colour, and personalisation.

Researchers received 527 survey responses on vape use among young people and found that 36 per cent of those who responded, between the age of 13 and 16 years, said they currently vape and that they had never smoked previously.

Josephine Lally, an independent social researcher who conducted the work, said what “struck” her is that vaping is “a tool for participation in social groups - conversing, communicating with their peers”.

“It has become a part of their day to day life. If you mention conventional cigarettes they’d say ‘no way, I wouldn’t smoke’. They perceive vaping to be safer and that is an issue,” she said.

Ms Lally said there was a “small sample” (31) of children aged 10 to 12 who engaged with the online survey, and of those, almost a quarter reported vaping.

“I was surprised at how young it started. There is a huge awareness among this age group and it’s not surprising given the level of advertising. When they stand for their chocolate bar at lunch time and they’re right there in front of them. They’re very aware,” she added.

Callum, a 16-year-old transition year student, said the presence of vapes has just “swept through my school”.

“Everyone I know has at least tried it, while at least a few are on the path to addiction. I think generally that’s down to peer pressure and curiosity to try it. But I think the biggest problem is how normalised it’s becoming,” he said.

Anne Marie Regan, area manager at Foróige, said hearing directly from young people is “critical in developing local and national responses to vaping”.

“We can’t wait for an even greater health and addiction crisis amongst children and young people to emerge,” she added.

The research made a number of recommendations, including the need for consistent public health messaging and a direct ‘campaign’ to inform children, young people, their families about vaping.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times