THE number of children trying vaping has risen by 50% in a year. For ten years I have written in the press that the smoking industry is the driving force behind vaping.

That industry funded the research to find ways to replace the millions of smokers being lost by quitting smoking. The answer to their prayers was vaping, so the tobacco companies slowly and discreetly bought up these pioneering companies so they could get as much control of it as possible.

Sadly the medical profession and even the Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) charity were, like our politicians, conned into believing the big myth – that vaping was the route to quitting smoking.

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I get daily reports from a worldwide research group into vaping, which in ten years has provided little evidence to confirm the second big myth – that millions of smokers have successfully quit by vaping. The often-quoted message from our medics and Ash, that vaping is 95% safer than smoking, has provided the vaping industry with a superb marketing message.

It is true that most vaping products do not contain any of the 4000 different chemicals that slowly found their way into cigarettes over three centuries, causing billions of deaths. It is the highly addictive nicotine that has successfully kept billions of people across the world using tobacco, to the detriment of their health.

Research shows millions of the heaviest smokers who vape may start off with lower levels of nicotine but then slowly increase the strength to satisfy their cravings. We have no idea what nasties are in vaping products that might harm our health.

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That centuries-old technique of hooking people into highly addictive drugs is exactly what is behind vaping. It is guaranteed to continue to make billions of pounds of profit for the tobacco industry shareholders.

The failure of our politicians to listen to people like me (I have worked for 50 years in health education of teens) means that we have completely failed to prevent our children being the target of yet another powerful drugs menace. The fact that vaping is not licensed like tobacco means that virtually anyone can sell vaping products. I have seen tiny corner shops, bakeries, computer shops, off licences and supermarkets all selling them. They are not qualified to give health advice.

More than 10% of teens in the US use vaping products every single day, they also lace it with cannabis. In the last year, 11- to 17-year-old children in the UK have increased their use of vaping from 7.7% to 11.6% even although legally you must be 18 to purchase vaping products.

Even primary school children are using these dangerous products. As with smoking, young girls are particularly attracted to vaping. Girls are now more likely than boys to start smoking tobacco and vaping in Scotland.

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On the BBC Scotland phone-in radio programme on Thursday someone thought that the answer to limiting the use of vaping was to make vaping products only available on prescription, since the medical profession seem to still believe it is a good route to quitting smoking. That will never happen for one very important reason. The last thing that the vaping industry wants is for it to be available on prescription, because if that was then it would have to be declared to be a drug.

Drugs on prescription have to go through years of testing to gain approval. Anyone manufacturing and selling drugs has legal obligations to ensure that their products are safe for public consumption.

There is no way vaping products, with or without nicotine in them, would ever pass that test. We need a lot more serious public debate about vaping to ensure our politicians get the message that they have all been well and truly conned.

Max Cruickshank