As many as 15% of 11- to 15-year-olds use vapes, experts suggest, with products often packaged in bright colours Ministers are facing mounting pressure to impose an outright ban on single-use vapes, amid concern about their rising popularity among children and wider worries that officials have minimal grip over a fast-moving sector. While it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to under-18s, some experts suggest as many as 15% of 11- to 15-year-olds use vapes, with Rishi Sunak saying this week he was worried that his daughters could be “seduced” by a heavily flavoured product often packaged in bright colours. A government call for evidence on vaping and young people in England is due to end on 6 June, with action expected on measures to clamp down on illegal vape sales, as well as the marketing and placement of relatively cheap single-use vapes, the popularity of which has soared with younger people. One government official said the latter was a particular worry. They said: “Some of the marketing and branding is pretty appalling – it can look like a sweet shop.” Some health groups have wider concerns about the approach of the government, set out by the junior health minister Neil O’Brien in a speech last month, to encourage vape use as a substitute for traditional tobacco products, with a planned “swap to stop” scheme offering a million smokers in England a free vaping starter kit. They argue that the relatively short history of e-cigarettes means there is minimal knowledge about long-term health effects, and that evidence about their efficacy as methods to stop smoking is similarly limited, pointing to countries such as Australia, which permit them only on prescription. The most immediate battle is likely to be fought over single-use vapes, now the chosen product for more than half of young people who use e-cigarettes. It is understood that a series of health groups have submitted evidence to the government review calling for them to be completely banned, as have environmental organisations alarmed at the disposal of more than a million devices a week, all containing single-use plastic, nicotine and batteries, including lithium. The Liberal Democrats are calling for a ban on single-use vapes, although Labour has thus far demanded only restrictions on marketing that makes them appealing to children. Speaking to ITV’s This Morning on Thursday, Sunak said: “How can we strengthen the rules on how they are marketed, promoted – what do they look like? It looks like they are targeted at kids, which is ridiculous – I don’t want my kids seduced by any of these things.” While the latest NHS statistics for e-cigarette use among children showed 9% of those aged 11 to 15 used them, the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health has said it could be as high as 15%. There is research showing that young people who vape are three times more likely to subsequently smoke than those who do not. Archie Bland and Nimo Omer take you through the top stories and what they mean, free every weekday morning There are also concerns that the types of single-use vapes favoured by children are often illegal. Laboratory tests on vapes gathered from a secondary school in Kidderminster found many contained high levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Daisy Cooper said ministers seemed completely uninterested in the threat to children from vapes. The Lib Dems’ health spokesperson said: “We need tougher regulation on vapes, such as age warnings on packets, an end to toy-like advertising targeted at children, and a ban on the sale of single-use vapes and free samples. The government should be doing all it can to reduce easy access to vaping for children now.” In his speech introducing the call for evidence, O’Brien called vaping “effectively a double-edged sword”, saying that while there was a risk of children developing an addiction to nicotine, vaping was “substantially less harmful than smoking” and worked well to help people quit smoking, especially with extra support. A spokesperson for the UK Vaping Industry Association said it wanted more government action to stop children buying vapes, but it opposed a ban on single-use devices. “There are far more effective ways to deal with the challenges surrounding youth access which do not involve banning any vaping category, a move that would drive smoking rates back up and lead to more deaths and costs to society,” they said. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “It’s already illegal to sell vapes to children and we are exploring further ways to tackle youth vaping through our newly launched call for evidence. We also recently announced a new illicit vapes enforcement squad – backed by £3m – to remove illegal products from shelves and stop them from crossing our borders.”