A ‘CONCERNING’ surge in the popularity of vaping - particularly among youngsters - will lead to more work being done by health bosses in Barnsley to make all forms of smoking invisible.

Government ministers 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 is restricting the amount of flavours available, making advertising in shops less prominent and clamping down on sellers who opt to sell illicit substances as a result of more stringent measures coming into force.

A scrutiny panel - which includes councillors, public health teams, hospital medics and Barnsley Youth Council representatives - met last week to discuss the work that’s started locally to combat the surge and what else could be done.

Anna Hartley, executive director for public health and communities, said: “In Barnsley we’re committed to making sure everyone in our communities can get the support they need to live happier, healthier, longer lives.

“It has been great to share what our teams and partners are doing to support our communities and make smoking and vaping invisible.

“We have an unwavering commitment to safeguarding public health and fostering informed decision-making.

“It serves a valuable reminder of how by working together, we’re creating the change we want to see locally and nationally.”

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).

Posters in schools, colleges and high footfall areas - such as Barnsley Interchange - have been placed which highlight the facts about vaping and e-cigarettes, helping parents, carers and young people understand the risks, according to a council report.

It added: “During the investigation, research was undertaken by Barnsley Youth Council amongst local young people to find out more about the prevalence of vaping and the attitudes of young people towards it.

“A number of focus groups were held in schools across the borough, asking young people why they think young people vape, whether they are aware of the damage caused by vaping, and to find out why young people enjoy vaping.

“Some recurrent comments were that young people are aware of the dangers and damage to their lungs, but there was a lot of peer pressure to vape as it is considered as being ‘cool’.

“The group were concerned by the findings and are keen for officers to analyse them in detail in order to consider how best to get messages out to young people to stop them/prevent them vaping, without inadvertently promoting it.

“The penultimate meeting of the group was with nurses from Barnsley Hospital’s respiratory service.

“Nurses highlighted that, like with smoking, it is going to take decades for the true health impacts to be researched and that initially it will be regarding the impact of legal vapes and not those which are illicit and more likely to be increasingly harmful and contain additional chemicals.

“Ultimately, lungs only like to breath in fresh air, therefore any other chemicals going into the lungs, whether this is from smoking or vaping products or polluted air risks causing damage or harm.

“In general, other clinicians from across the hospital felt that vaping is safer than smoking however were sceptical about the long-term effects which are currently unknown and would be reluctant to recommend their use.”