In this week’s episode, the abuse team discuss the recent headlines surrounding vape shops being used as gateway to child exploitation. According to recent headlines, E-cigs are being used by paedophiles to lure victims in the same way as they do with alcohol, drugs or mobile top-up cards.
Paedophiles are grooming kids with vapes as the e-cigs become the latest teenage fashion craze.
Young people are being coerced to sell on the vapes, which can then lead to them being coerced into selling illegal drugs.
Alternatively, vapes are being given to children as part of the grooming process to ‘befriend’ them. One of the most common methods for perpetrators to gain children’s confidence and trust is by befriending them with gifts.
Trading Standards officers have logged 2,268 incidents of underage vaping in the last 12 months, a near 2,000% increase on the previous year.
And among those were a handful of children who had been given the vapes in return for being sexually abused.
Greater Manchester police force intelligence also suggests that children are being encouraged to hang around certain premises and are being given food, cannabis and alcohol.
Drug gangs have been found to be giving young children free elf bars in a bid to groom them to taking part in organised crime.
Duncan Stephenson of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute said: “We worry this is just the tip of the iceberg. When youngsters started stepping forward In the Jimmy Savile scandal others did, too. Grooming is the most alarming aspect of vaping by children.”
Offenders target vulnerable young people and use their power to sexually abuse them.
Victims of child sexual exploitation are unlikely to report abuse so it is essential that police and partners, parents etc. must be alert to the signs and actively look for them.
Not to mention concerns of children smoking …
Although vapes are intended as an aide to help adult smokers quit smoking, single disposable ones are becoming more popular with children because of their bright colours and variety of flavours.
Unscrupulous shopkeepers position them close to sweets to encourage children as young as 11 to buy them.
Trading standards have probed reports of kids in school uniform being able to get them from convenience stores with no questions asked and obtaining them through social media.
Elf Bars are the joint-strongest disposable vape you can buy in the UK, meeting the legal limit of 20mg/ml of high-strength nicotine salts e-liquid. Each vape contains the nicotine dosage of 48 cigarettes. The number of 11 to 17-year-olds who are vaping has doubled in the past year. They are highly addictive.
Concerns with cost-of-living crisis: children often want what their friends have and to look ‘cool’ – A lot of children will come from families who do not have much money and so if they want vapes, trainers etc. they are at high risk of being groomed.
Police urge anyone who sees shops selling vapes to children to report to trading standards through the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline.
The UK e-cig industry is now worth £2.9 billion as official figures show 3.3 million people had taken up vaping by the end of last year, the highest number on record.
Kathleen Hallisey is a Senior Associate in the Abuse Team at Hugh James.
Originally from the US, she began her legal career in New York before moving to the UK and becoming a solicitor. Throughout her career, she has exclusively acted on behalf of claimants, including those who suffered catastrophic injuries on the road or at work, were dismissed from their jobs as a result of discrimination, or sexually assaulted on university campuses.
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