E-CIGARETTES should be sold in plain packaging and hidden from view in shops to combat a "vaping epidemic" among teenagers, a leading paediatrician has said.

Dr Steve Turner is among four experts in child and respiratory health in Scotland who are calling on the First Minister to take action to protect children and young people from lung damage in the future.

It is illegal to sell vaping products to under-18s in Scotland, but the latest statistics indicate that 10 per cent of 15-year-olds in Scotland are now using e-cigarettes regularly compared to 3% in 2018.

READ MORE: 'We must ban single-use vapes to protect children'

Surveys have also shown that use of e-cigarettes is most popular among young people aged 25 to 34.

In a letter today to Humza Yousaf, four medics - Dr Turner, a consultant paediatrician in general and respiratory paediatrics at Aberdeen Children’s Hospital; Dr Kenny Macleod, a consultant respiratory paediatrician at NHS Lothian; Dr Ross Langley, a paediatric respiratory consultant at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde; and Dr Jonathan Coutts, a consultant neonatal and respiratory paediatrician at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow - warn that there is "no reason to suppose that the rising trend in children’s use will halt or diminish".

The Herald: Vaping stores have become more common on the high streetVaping stores have become more common on the high street (Image: Getty)

They urge that "regulations to restrict the visibility and availability of recreational e-cigarettes are introduced without further delay" amid "established and emerging science on the health harms" of vaping products.

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They add: "We have particular concerns regarding the negative impacts of e-cigarette use on developing lungs (acute lung disease) and brains (increased addiction and adverse behavioural outcomes).

"Furthermore, we are concerned that long-term use of e-cigarettes will lead to serious disease outcomes in coming decades."

The Scottish Government is already under pressure from doctors to ban the sale of disposable e-cigarettes, which are used by 75% of children who vape.

READ MORE: Researchers call for complete ban on vape advertising 

It comes after recent NHS figures revealed that 40 people under 20 had been admitted to hospitals in England last year for "vaping-related disorders", up from 11 in 2020.

These included breathlessness and suspected lung damage.

Dr Turner, the former officer for Scotland at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Heath (RCPCH), said he is worried that we are setting up a new generation for addiction.

Australia has reported its first rise in youth smoking rates in 25 years, with youngsters who vape more likely to take up cigarettes.

The Herald:

He said: "As doctors, we don't see children coming in with acute health concerns due to exposure to vaping.

"There are reports of young people coming in with life threatening illnesses, but these are fortunately very rare.

"The issue is that we are seemingly, knowingly, walking into a whole new generation of children who are going to be addicted nicotine.

"We have very good and effective and well-reasoned legislation around selling tobacco products - other nicotine containing products - such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

"They're in the shop, behind a blank screen, in plain packaging, but there is obviously a loophole because you have one set of nicotine products under very tight legislation and in the same shop, sat next to the sweeties, at the eye level of young children, are disposable vapes."

READ MORE: Helpful or harmful - what is the truth about e-cigarettes?

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, which campaigns to reduce tobacco-related harm, backed the doctors, saying the Scottish Government had "missed a series of opportunities to introduce robust restrictions on the advertising and promotion of recreational e-cigarettes for almost seven years now".

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are concerned by evidence of young people using e-cigarettes or vaping products, even just once.

"These age-restricted products should only be used as a cessation tool for adult smokers, not by children, young people and adult non-smokers.

"Trading Standards continue to work across Scotland to enforce the current legislation on these products.

"Our refreshed Tobacco Action Plan will be published in autumn and will include further action on under age vaping.”