Vapes using Simpsons and sweet brand designs are being openly advertised on TikTok amid fears for the safety of children illegally taking up the habit.
The video-sharing platform, which is hugely popular with teenagers, is being used to display products including those containing cannabis oils.
One vendor was advertising ‘juice’ in the shape of fruit flavours bearing the California cannabis sign, meaning the products are legal in the US state.
However the account was advertising a Telegram page, suggesting transactions are being made via the secure messaging app for shipping elsewhere.
A Simpsons watermelon vape showing a picture of Bart and another depicting Martin were also being promoted in videos.
Another clip showed a cannabis product with a ‘Shorties’ design based on the Smarties logo.
The content found by Metro.co.uk has either been removed or is being reviewed by TikTok’s Trust and Safety Team, the platform said today.
Accounts advertising the products act as a shop window with customers then directed to Telegram to place orders, according to a separate investigation by The Times.
The videos have been circulating at a time when there is concern about children being hospitalised by illegal vape use.
Local authorities around the country, including in Essex, Hampshire and Middlesbrough, have issued warnings over the past year following children collapsing after using cannabis oil vapes.
In June, eight children from a school in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, were hospitalised in the space of a few months after vaping, according to the town’s MP, Dr Caroline Johnson.
The following month a 12-year-old boy at Saint John Henry Newman Catholic College in Oldham collapsed in the playground after inhaling a vape containing spice, an illegal synthetic drug.
Anton Noble, a youth mentor with the Guiding Young Minds project, part of the Assist Trauma Care Charity, runs workshops in schools raising awareness about vapes and substance misuse.
He told Metro.co.uk: ‘Children are seeing vapes advertised on TikTok, Snapchat and in local shops, where some shopkeepers are illegally selling the products to younger kids. The kids are also using “add ons” to make vapes do things they are not intended for.
‘Vapes and nitrous oxide are the reason why a lot of children are getting breathing problems and ending up in A&E, and if you go to casualty departments you will see a lot of young people who wouldn’t have been there a few years back. Vapes are also turning into a gateway drug, whereas it used to be cannabis. Schools are telling us they are struggling to cope with the rising number of kids using vapes.’
Potent synthetic cannabis such as spice, which is illegal in the UK, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil, the main psychoactive ingredient in the plant, are being used in the liquids, also known as ‘juice’.
In October, the NASUWT teachers’ union warned that 85% of its members believed that vaping was a problem on school premises.
Of the 4,000 teachers surveyed, 75% thought the problem had increased over the past year, with some primary teachers reporting pupils as young as 10 bringing products onto the premises.
Anonymous experiences shared by respondents included ‘students vaping THC and being sick, passing out and being high whilst on school premises’ and ‘an escalation from vaping nicotine to THC and marijuana.’
Oliver Sutcliffe, director of Manchester Drug Analysis and Knowledge Exchange (Mandrake), told The Times that some oils now contain a 90% concentration of THC.
All of the THC vapes analysed over the past 12 months by Mandrake, which works with Greater Manchester Police, had been used by schoolchildren.
Sutcliffe said: ‘High-strength THC is certainly something we have seen a lot more of this year.’
As UK law stands, a person must be 18 or older to buy and use a vape.
The government is presently consulting on plans to crack down on the habit, including by restricting the flavours and descriptions of the products to stop them being targeted at children.
The official health advice states: ‘Due to nicotine content and the unknown long-term harms, vaping carries risks to health and lifelong addiction for children. The health advice is clear: young people and people who have never smoked should not vape.’
TikTok’s Community Guidelines state that content promoting the trade of vaping products, e-cigarettes or tobacco products is not permitted.
The channel maintains that 97.7% of videos violating policies on drugs, controlled substances, alcohol and tobacco were taken down before they were reported to the platform.
A spokesperson said: ‘We have reviewed the accounts flagged and content found to violate our community guidelines has been removed.’
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