A school leaders’ union is urging its members to ban parents and other adults from using e-cigarettes on school premises.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has welcomed the government’s recent decision to ban sales of e-cigerettes to anyone under-18 as “a great step forward”.
However, the union says that many school leaders are concerned that the increased marketing and use of e-cigerettes is sending the message to children that “vaping” – as it is known – is safe.
A meeting of the NAHT’s national executive late last month decided that the union will advise its members to ban the products completely from the school site.
Headteachers already have the power to ban items and so such a policy would not require government legislation.
An NAHT statement said: “Although the potential dangers of e-cigarettes are increasingly being reported, the products are not currently covered by existing legislation because e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and do not release ‘smoke’.
“Many school leaders and health professionals are concerned that the increased public use and marketing of e-cigarettes may be sending the wrong message to children and young people that ‘vaping’ is a safe recreational activity. Of particular concern is the promotion of flavoured e-cigarettes, which may be particularly appealing to children.”
NHS England has said that e-cigarettes will be licensed and regulated as an aid to quit smoking from 2016, meaning they will face stringent checks by regulators.
Up until then, however, they are only covered by general product safety legislation, meaning they can legally be promoted and sold to children.
Sally Bates, a headteacher and chair of the NAHT policy committee, added: “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.
“Nicotine is a toxin which has been linked to agitation and blood vessel disease. The long-term effects of inhaling it in the form of e-cigarettes is unknown. Therefore children should not be allowed to form the opinion that it is a safe thing to do.
“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.”