Headteachers in Britain should ban e-cigarettes from their schools to avoid giving children the message that using them is a safe activity, it has been suggested.
The National Association of Head Teachers, which represents the majority of primary school leaders, said that it intends to advise its members to prohibit anyone from bringing the tobacco- free products on to school grounds.
At the weekend, the government announced it is to bring in legislation to ban under-18s from buying electronic cigarettes.
Under the move, due to be introduced this week as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, ‘proxy purchasing’ — knowingly buying tobacco on behalf of someone under 18 — will also be banned.
An estimated 1.3m people in the UK are thought to use e-cigarettes.
The NAHT said the government’s move was a “great step forward” but warned adults would not be banned from bringing electronic cigarettes onto school premises.
The union suggested that heads are concerned that if adults can bring e-cigarettes into schools, then pupils will be introduced to the idea of smoking them — ‘vaping’ — and copy the behaviour.
While many people view the tobacco-free devices as a better alternative to traditional cigarettes, health experts remain concerned about the long-term effects they could have on users’ health. E-cigarettes provide a hit of nicotine — a highly addictive drug — and some fear they reinforce the behaviour of smoking, making it harder to give up in the long term.
Sally Bates, a headteacher and chair of the NAHT’s policy committee said: “At the moment anyone vaping has no way of knowing what they are putting into their body. We accept there may be some benefits as a means to wean people off cigarettes, but that does not make e-cigarettes safe.
“It is particularly concerning that these products can appeal to a younger market with fruit, candy, and alcohol flavours available. Schools should send a clear message to pupils and parents that the use of any kind of cigarette, electronic or otherwise, is not acceptable on school premises.”
Currently there is no restriction on people under 18 buying e-cigarettes, and they are hugely popular among teenagers in Britain.
It is feared that children are turning to the smokeless devices — designed to help smokers quit — before moving on to traditional cigarettes.
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