Southend health boss urges public to report shops selling vapes to children

A Southend health boss has urged the public to snitch on shops that they worry may be selling vapes to underage children.

Director of public health, Krishna Ramkhelawon, said any suspicion the potentially dangerous e-cigarettes were being sold to under age children must be reported to Southend Council’s trading standards team.

Mr Ramkhelawon spoke in response to concerns raised by Anne Jones, Labour councillor for Westborough Ward.

Speaking at Thursday’s health and wellbeing board meeting, where Mr Ramkhelawon presented the council’s new drug and alcohol strategy,

Cllr Jones said: “How does addiction happen? Young people vaping is becoming addictive behaviour. I witnessed some kids come out of a shop with some but I couldn’t prove that they’d obtained it in that shop.

“There are things that are happening in localities which we’re not picking up on. With our environmental health colleagues and trading standards it’s really important we have that.

In response, Mr Ramkhelawon, said: “For anyone who is aware of anyone or any place that could be selling vapes to young people please get in touch with trading standards because we can do some mystery shopping with the youth council to find a way to stop it. We have got powers and we will use them.”

Medical research institute, the George Institute, has called for a complete ban on e-cigarette advertising in the UK after a study found young people are susceptible to taking up vaping.

Parents have also raised concerns there is an “epidemic” of vaping sweeping across south Essex school children.

Presenting his report Mr Ramkhelawon said there was “significant increase” in the use of recreational drugs.

He said priority of the a newly formed drug and alcohol partnership board with council, police and Mid and South Essex partnership would prioritise breaking the drug supply chain.

A strategy report to the board showed In Southend, the rate of drug related deaths in 2018- 20 was 5.7 per 100,000 population, signficantly higher than the England average of 5 per 100,000 and the East of England rate of 3.7 per 100,000.

There were 23 recorded drug and alcohol related deaths in Southend in 2020.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter