HEALTH bosses have vowed to clamp down on the emerging supply of illegal vapes due to concerns over the amount of youngsters becoming addicted to cheap substances in Barnsley, the Chronicle can reveal.

Thousands of items were seized by Barnsley Council last year following work by the local authority’s regulatory services department.

This week, newly-appointed director of public health, Anna Hartley, revealed that more proactive work is being done to disrupt the supply chain due to illegal vapes registering higher nicotine levels and cheaper prices.

These aspects, Ms Hartley said, have made illegal products both lucrative to sellers and more attractive to youngsters.

“It is a huge concern as although they’re no doubt less harmful than smoking cigarettes, the long-term impacts of vaping is still unknown,” she told the Chronicle.

“All forms of nicotine are highly addictive and illegal vapes have higher-than-normal amounts.

“They’re cheaper, they’re becoming more available and it’s important that children in particular are protected from being exposed.

“Anything unnatural that lungs are exposed to is a concern but the rise in youngsters vaping is an issue we want to take action on.”

Government ministers have outlined plans to tackle youth vaping by reducing the appeal, affordability and availability as part of a pledge for a so-called ‘smoke-free’ generation in the coming years.

A key part of the legislation being drawn up is restricting the amount of flavours available, making advertising in shops less prominent and clamping down on sellers who opt to sell illicit substances.

Recent figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled, with 20.5 per cent of children aged between 11 and 17 having tried vaping in 2023, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

The proportion of young vape users that use disposable vapes has also significantly increased in recent years - in 2021, only 7.7 per cent of current vapers aged 11 to 17 used disposable vapes, which increased to 52 per cent in 2022 and 69 per cent in 2023.

Ms Hartley said: “It’s not hard to see why vaping has grown in prominence as many sellers advertise them in a sweet shop-like manner - there’s often a wall full of flavours in brightly-coloured packaging.

“Although the new legislation isn’t in place yet, it’s hoped it will gain the approval from MPs and it’ll help restrict a lot of what’s currently happening.

“However, locally, we’re still being proactive.

“We really care about this and we’ve seized more than 5,000 illicit vapes and have a contingent of young volunteers who are checking shops in the town.”

Work is also being done at shops on the Barnsley-Wakefield border, with 5,000 more illegal vapes - with a value of £75,000 - being seized from a shop in South Kirkby following tip-offs from the community earlier this month.

Charity Action on Smoking and Health said the rise should be seen as a ‘wake up call’.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive, said there is a worrying growth in vaping among teens and young adults - with 15.5 per cent of young people aged 16 to 24 years vaping daily or occasionally last year.

She said: “The government’s response to the consultation on youth vaping - due imminently - must contain concrete measures to prohibit child-friendly branding.

“Products must be put out of sight and out of reach in shops, as well as a tax on the pocket money-priced disposable vapes most popular with children.”