While the evidence seems to suggest vaping isn’t as harmful as smoking, it is still damaging and addictive. Accordingly, the government plans to legislate the sale of these products by holding a public consultation against single-use vapes because of concerns over children’s health. 

Let’s hope it is not too late before something gets done!

In recent months, many residents have also rightly raised their concerns with me, wanting to formally complain about why outlets like Kandy and Vape are suddenly allowed to operate in Knaphill by blatantly targeting young people with a name designed to attract them.

Unfortunately, these retail outlets are not licensed premises, so Woking Borough Council has no control. 

Generally, Surrey Trading Standards cover tobacco sales with the associated age checks and ID requirements to ensure tobacco retailers act legally, selling only to those 18 and over.

However, vaping is growing fast among young people because of a lack of stringent checks because of funding cuts and a shortage of qualified trading standard officers required to prosecute those retailers selling to underage customers. 

Residents also complain about anti-social behaviour because young people gather in certain parts of the village to vape, leaving litter behind.

The consequences of the easy availability and severity of dealing with vaping came to light when my fellow Knaphill councillors and I received an invitation to talk through the issues faced by secondary schools with the head and the deputy head of one of our local schools, requesting help to address the ever-growing problem they face and show what they are doing to stop the scourge of vaping.

Although it was great to know about the decline in smoking, we were shocked to learn of an alarming increase in the number of children using vapes. 

We were further surprised to witness the lengths the staff go to confiscate prohibited products for sale to the underage, including nicotine pouches, some of which have highly-toxic contents.

Also, discovering the measures put in place by the school to protect the children was equally concerning. 

Apart from including in the education curriculum the impact of vaping on health and illegal behaviours such as trading/dealing vapes as a business enterprise, the school, after intensive research and professional advice, has now installed highly-reliable vape detectors in their new open-plan toilet cubicles costing tens of thousands of pounds.

In addition, the school will write to parents about the harmful effects of vaping with pictures of the dangerous products confiscated from the pupils on school premises, making it clear to children and adults that vaping is prohibited on the school site with sanctions put in place for anyone possessing a vape, using a vape or with someone in a toilet cubicle using a vape.

Some children have also confided to the school that they are addicted to nicotine through vaping despite the perception of many adults and children that vaping is a harmless activity. 

It seems many parents are entirely unaware that their children are getting addicted to vaping.

What is also worrying is that apart from spending already-overstretched financial school budgets on toilets, valuable staff time gets spent policing and searching pupils suspected of vaping. 

Surely, parents and even the government would rather see funds and teachers’ time spent on improving the academic excellence of pupils than waste time policing the use of illegal products.

We pledged to do our best to support the school – albeit as borough councillors, we don’t have the legislative or enforcement powers. 

However, we discussed the possibility of debating the subject and passing a council motion for the government and our MP to act quickly because what is happening in Knaphill is also happening elsewhere in Woking and nationally.