Children could switch to powerful nicotine powders that are currently legal for them to buy following a teen vaping crackdown, ministers have been warned.
Nicotine powders are sold in chewing gum sized pouches and placed in the mouth where they dissolve and absorbed by the body.
As they are not classified as tobacco products in the UK they can currently be legally sold to children.
Just like some controversial vape products, some brands feature child-friendly flavours like ‘gummy bear’ or ‘strawberry vanilla candy’ in brightly coloured packaging that are stamped with cartoon characters.
Some online sellers are touting the products as a ‘healthier’ alternative to vaping and claim their products offer a more discreet way for users to get their nicotine hit.
Some nicotine powders are sold in colourful packaging and feature candy like flavours, much like vape products experts have criticised for being targeted towards children
Ministers have been urged to close a legal loophole allowing the sale of nicotine powders to children
Some powders seen for sale by MailOnline contain more far more nicotine than cigarettes (stock image)
Experts and anti-smoking groups today called on Government to close the loophole allowing the products to be sold to children.
They warned that attempts to wean children off nicotine by cracking down on vapes could fail if other sources remained available.
Nicotine powders were originally developed as a smoking cessation product but have since become a distinct, and powerful, recreational product in their own right.
MailOnline found some candy flavours of the powders being sold online that contained nearly 33mg of nicotine per pouch.
For comparison, a single cigarette contains between 8 to 20mg of nicotine.
Candy-flavoured nicotine powders are sold in tubs containing just 20 pouches for as little as £4.50, meaning children can buy a huge quantity of nicotine relatively cheaply.
Alice Wiseman, policy lead for addiction for the Association of Directors of Public Health, told The Times: ‘The sale of these extremely harmful and addictive nicotine pods to children and young people is completely unacceptable.
‘There is currently no regulation in place to stop these products being sold to under-18s, which leaves them vulnerable to the targeted marketing used to entice them into buying and using such a damaging product.
‘Greater regulation needs to be introduced by the government to protect children and young people, to stop nicotine pods and other similar harmful products being advertised as something fun and appropriate for a person under the age of 18.’
She also called for more research to learn more about long term health impacts on nicotine powder usage.
With the Government poised to ban disposable vapes to curb nicotine addiction in children, there are fears young people could resort to alternative sources to get their fix.
While sales of e-cigarettes to under-18s are banned, latest data suggests more than a tenth of 11 to 17-year-olds in the UK have already tried vaping.
Many websites selling the powders already tout the benefits of using them compared to vapes.
Tests on e-cigarettes confiscated from youngsters found they contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Some were almost 10 times above safe limits. Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting
NHS Digital data, based on the smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England survey for the year 2021, showed 30 per cent of children in Yorkshire and the Humber have used a vape
Some claim that powders are healthier than vapes as the nicotine is not inhaled, posing no risk of irritation to the lungs.
They also highlight how using the powder is discreet as no vapour or smoke is produced meaning people can use them anywhere without obvious signs.
Vapes, which allow the user to inhale nicotine as a vapour rather than the smoke of traditional cigarettes, are widely accepted as healthier than smoking and tool in smoking cessation.
However, this doesn’t mean they are risk free and experts have cautioned about their long-term use, especially in children.
NHS figures have shown a rise in the number of children admitted to hospital due to vaping.
Forty children and young people were admitted to hospital in England last year due to ‘vaping-related disorders’, which could include lung damage or worsening asthma symptoms, up from 11 two years earlier, the NHS said.
Some children have also suffered catastrophic allergic reactions after vaping.
Some popular brands of nicotine powders already restrict the sale of their products to over-18s only, but this is voluntary.
Others, seen by this website, do not require age verification to view their products for purchase.
Everything you need to know about e-cigarettes
How much nicotine is in an e-cigarette?
There are many different brands of e-cigarettes, containing various different nicotine levels.
The legal amount of nicotine in an e-liquid capacity in the UK is 20mg/ml equating to between 600 and 800 puffs.
The Elf Bar 600, one of Britain’s most popular vapes, is advertised as coming in nicotine strengths of 0mg, 10mg and 20mg.
How many cigarettes are ‘in’ an e-cigarette?
The Elf Bar 600 contains the equivalent to 48 cigarettes, analysts say.
It delivers 600 puffs before it needs to be thrown away, meaning, in theory, every 12.5 puffs equate to one cigarette.
Experts say for many e-cigarettes, 100 puffs equate to ten normal cigarettes.
Elf Bars are a brand of e-cigarettes often sold in snazzy colours and with child-friendly names and flavours, like blue razz lemonade and green gummy bear
Is vaping better for your health than cigarettes?
Vaping products are considered to be better than cigarettes as users are exposed to fewer toxins and at lower levels, according to the NHS.
The health service adds that vaping instead of smoking cigarettes reduces your exposure to toxins that can cause cancer, lung disease and diseases of the heart and circulation, such as strokes and heart attacks.
Public Health England, which is now defunct, published an expert independent review in 2015 concluding that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.
However vaping is not risk-free, as while levels in tobacco-products are much higher, e-cigarettes still contain harmful toxins, according to a study by researchers from the Medical University of Silesia in Poland.
And Dr Onkar Mudhar, a London dentist who posts videos on TikTok, said Elf bars can cause gum inflammation, swelling and bleeding.
He said this is because nicotine dries out your mouth and reduces saliva, causing irritation from a build-up of bacteria and food that can’t get washed away.
Nearly 350 hospitalisations due to vaping were logged in England in 2022, which are thought to be mainly down to respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, lung inflammation and, in severe cases, respiratory failure.