Single-use vapes should be banned amid concerns about the environment and children as young as four taking up the habit, the Senedd has heard.
Jenny Rathbone, who represents Cardiff Central, said raspberry and bubble gum-flavoured vapes are being targeted at school children as if they were sweets.
She told MSs: “In a meeting last week on liver disease, we heard that children as young as four and five are using vapes.”
The Labour backbencher criticised “hopelessly out of date” guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2021 which excludes under 12s.
Ms Rathbone highlighted evidence that single-use vapes deliver between eight and 20 times the nicotine of the average cigarette, making it more difficult to quit than smoking.
She warned: “We already know they are bad for your lungs. The chemical cocktail produced by heating up the liquid for vaping includes: acrolein, most often used as a weedkiller; diacetyl, a food additive used to deepen the vaping flavours; and formaldehyde.
“These are all linked to lung damage. What is going to be the impact in 20 years' time on addicted young vapers?”
Ms Rathbone said vaping is also undermining efforts to avert the climate emergency, with 1.3 million single-use vapes dumped in general waste each week.
She told the Senedd that vapes’ flammable batteries, which contain lithium, have been responsible for more than 700 fires in bin lorries and recycling centres in the UK.
She said: “Recyclers report that it's not cost-effective to separate the lithium from the vapes, so millions of tonnes of this precious white gold, deemed essential for electric car batteries and energy storage, is instead stoking fires.”
Ms Rathbone called for e-cigarettes to be made available only on prescription to support those who want to quit smoking during the debate on Wednesday, 15 November.
John Griffiths highlighted that the first minister is on record as saying the best approach is to make vaping prescription-only.
Mr Griffiths, who chairs the Senedd’s cross-party group on smoking and health, described vaping as a growing public health menace.
The Labour MS for Newport East said: “I've met with primary school staff and primary school pupils who are very, very concerned about the prevalence of vaping at that tender age.”
He took aim at the big tobacco companies that promote vaping products, saying: “The colours that are used, the marketing, the way that they're displayed.
“It’s really, really cynical and designed to target young people without any care for their health or other impacts.”
Julie James, responding for the Welsh Government, shared her Labour colleague’s concerns about the increased prevalence of single-use vapes.
The climate change minister highlighted the UK Government consultation on creating a smoke-free generation, saying it has the potential to eradicate smoking for good.
The consultation includes plans to restrict vapes and prevent them being used by children, with UK ministers committing to working with the devolved nations to align policy.
Ms James said: “One of the things that really strikes you when you look at this in any detail is that, of course, you need a licence to sell alcohol but you need no licence at all to sell tobacco and these really quite damaging products.”
She told MSs that single-use vapes are having a devastating environmental impact, with nearly five million thrown away each week – a four-fold increase in one year.
Ms James said: “This is a rapidly accelerating environmental catastrophe that we really must stop before it's too late.”
In 2016, plans to regulate e-cigarettes – which were five years in the making – were defeated by one vote after Leighton Andrews described Plaid Cymru as a “cheap date”.
Accusing the ex-minister of belittling cooperation, the party withdrew its support for the legislation which was brought forward by Mark Drakeford while health minister.