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Warning as children targeted with potentially fatal black market vapes

Health and wellbeing

Thursday, 23 May 2024
A selection of vapes which were seized from children in Middlesbrough and handed over to police in October last year

A warning has been issued to families that children are being targeted with potentially fatal black market vapes.

A number of children – including some locally - have needed urgent medical attention after using illicit devices laced with illegal drugs like Spice

One young person needed immediate treatment with Naloxone, a medication to treat opiate overdoses, after inhaling from an illicit vape.

Vapes containing nicotine are used to help adults quit smoking tobacco, and their legal age for use and purchase is 18. Young people who do not smoke are advised not to start vaping.

Health chiefs are now writing to families urging them to be vigilant and learn how to spot an illegal vape pen – which often contain more than 600 puffs or can hold more than 2ml of liquid.

Mark Adams, the Joint Director of Public Health for the South Tees area, said: “Our immediate advice to parents and carers is make sure you know how to spot an illegal vape.

“They often look similar to legal devices, but the fact they hold more puffs or a greater amount of vaping liquid is a tell-tale sign that they’re not safe or legal.

“We simply do not know what these devices are being filled with, and neither does your child.

“But what we do know is that young people across the UK have been falling seriously ill after inhaling drugs like Spice and Nitazenes, which is a synthetic drug similar to heroin, but many times more potent.

“This is a problem we have seen in cities and towns around the country, not just in the South Tees area, which is why we want to urgently warn families about the danger.

“The truth is these illegal devices can kill.”

On top of the obvious and immediate health dangers, the illegal devices are linked to organised crime and exploitation.

Cleveland Police have previously seized dozens of illicit vapes confiscated from young people. It’s believed they are filled by dealers who then use Snapchat and other social media apps to sell them.

Public Health South Tees, which covers the Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland areas, are already working with police, NHS trusts, Teesside University, Trading Standards and local schools to address the issue.

Mayor Chris Cooke, the Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health at Middlesbrough Council, said: “This is not just a local problem, but I’m pleased to see our dedicated public health teams being proactive to warn young people and their families about this real and very urgent risk.

“We have staff going into schools and meeting headteachers, while frontline professionals have been trained to use life-saving Naloxone medication.

“Our Trading Standards team in Middlesbrough has also been leading the way over the past 12 months in seizing illegal vapes and getting court orders to close down those premises selling them.”

Cllr Ursula Earl, Cabinet Member for Health, Welfare and Housing at Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, said: “This is extremely serious, and children are at risk of becoming very poorly or even dying by using these illegal vapes.

“Colleagues in public health, the police, NHS and local schools are getting the word out as much as possible because it’s so important that families are fully aware of the dangers that these substances can cause.

“We urge families to please take action if they notice anything suspicious.”

Letters from Public Health South Tees will be delivered to parents in the region from today.

Cleveland Police are working closely with local schools to share information and intelligence and would urge anyone with information regarding those supplying the vapes to call the force on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously either online or by calling 0800 555 111.

If you are concerned about a young person you should contact:

In Middlesbrough, Recovery Solutions for alcohol and substance support on 01642 726800.

In Redcar & Cleveland, ‘With You’ for alcohol and substance support on 0300 303 3781.