Government says disposable vapes should be banned for children39s health

Government says disposable vapes should be banned for children's health reasons –

  • By Hugh Pym, Health Editor, Philippa Roxby and Christy Cooney
  • BBC News

January 28, 2024

Updated 22 minutes ago

Image source: Getty Images

The government says disposable vapes will be banned to combat the increasing number of young people taking up vaping.

Measures will also be introduced to prevent e-cigarettes from being marketed to children and to target sales to minors.

Figures from the charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) suggest that 7.6% of 11 to 17 year olds now smoke regularly or occasionally, up from 4.1% in 2020.

The ban is expected to be rolled out across the UK, the government said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to explain the plans during a school visit on Monday.

“As all parents and teachers know, one of the most worrying trends currently is the increase in e-cigarette use among children, and that is why we must act before it becomes endemic,” he said in a statement.

This follows last year's announcement of a ban on the sale of cigarettes to people born on or after January 1, 2009, as part of an attempt to create a “smoke-free generation”.

It's already illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, but the government said disposable e-cigarettes – which are often sold in smaller, more colorful packages than refillable ones – are “a key reason for the alarming rise in e-cigarettes.” -Cigarette consumption among young people”.

The NHS says e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking, but they haven't been around long enough for its long-term risks to be known.

The vapor inhaled can still contain small amounts of chemicals found in cigarettes, including nicotine – which is addictive but is not considered by the NHS to be one of the most problematic ingredients in cigarettes.

Health Minister Victoria Atkins told the BBC she was confident the new bill would be passed by Parliament by the general election – likely this year – and come into force in early 2025.

Once the schedule is finalized, retailers will be given six months to implement it.

The bill could be introduced using existing legislation to protect the environment.

Activists have long argued that disposable vapes are wasteful and that the materials and chemicals used to make them, including their lithium batteries, make them difficult to dispose of safely.

The latest changes would also introduce the power to ban the sale of refillable e-cigarettes in flavors aimed at children and require them to be made in plainer, less attractive packaging.

The government may also order that stores sell refillable e-cigarettes out of the sight of children and away from other products they may purchase, such as cigarettes. E.g. display sweets.

A further public consultation will be held to decide which flavors should be banned and how refillable e-cigarettes should be sold, the government said.

Kid-friendly vape flavors currently available include those inspired by cookies, jam, and energy drinks.

To prevent sales to minors, additional fines will be imposed on any shops in England and Wales caught illegally selling e-cigarettes to children.

Matt Carpenter, headteacher at Baxter College in Kidderminster, told BBC Radio 5 live vaping was a “huge part of youth culture” and said the proposed ban on disposable vapes was a “big step forward”.

Glyn Potts, headteacher at Newham Catholic College in Oldham, said action needed to be taken to stop children being “bombarded” with “attractive” products on social media and in stores across the country.

He also told BBC Radio 4's Today program that there was evidence that some e-cigarette pens had been converted to contain “cannabis derivatives” which he claimed were inducing young people could be admitted to hospital.

E-cigarette alternatives such as nicotine pouches – small white pouches that are stuck between the lip and gums – will also be banned for children. The pouches release nicotine but do not contain tobacco and can therefore currently be legally sold to under 18s.

Health officials will be keen to ensure the new measures do not make it more difficult for adult smokers to switch to vaping as an alternative.

What is important here is advice on how far the restrictions on flavors and displays in stores should go.

The announcement follows an initial consultation launched late last year by the UK Government and devolved administrations to gauge public attitudes to proposed measures to reduce smoking and e-cigarette levels.

The government said nearly 70% of respondents supported a ban on disposable vapes.

Have other countries banned disposable vapes?

Both the Scottish and Welsh governments said they would introduce bans, either through legislation in their own parliaments or by supporting British measures.

Northern Ireland remains without a devolved administration following the failure of power-sharing, but the Department of Health said it had “a long-standing strategic objective for a tobacco-free Northern Ireland” and would make preparations for future ministers to make a decision on the ban.

The UK has joined a small group of countries planning to ban disposable vapes. Australia, France, Germany and New Zealand have all announced similar plans, although only New Zealand has implemented them so far.

Some will argue that the UK's plans still do not go far enough. There have been calls for a tax on e-cigarettes to bring them into line with tobacco, while in Australia e-cigarettes are now only available by prescription.

'Desperate attempt'

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, welcomed the government's strategy, while Dr. Camilla Kingdon, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said creating a “smoke-free generation” would reduce young people's chances of developing preventable diseases later in life.

However, the UK Vaping Industry Association said it was “dismayed” by the announcement, adding that disposable vapes had “played a key role in helping millions of adults quit smoking and stay away from cigarettes”.

“While measures to prevent young people's access to vaping are crucial, this move smacks more of a desperate attempt by the government to sacrifice vaping for votes,” it said in a statement.

The association added that the ban would put children at greater risk by “stimulating the black market” and increasing the availability of illegal e-cigarettes. Instead, it was said that current laws needed to be better enforced.

Eve Peters, UK director of government affairs at Elf Bar, one of the country's largest e-cigarette makers with sister brand Lost Mary, said the company supported the government's desire to ban children from using e-cigarettes but was ” “disappointed by the total ban”.

Asli Ertonguc, spokeswoman for British American Tobacco's UK branch, said increased controls on the “importation, desirability and access of these products will more effectively reduce underage consumption.”

Shares of some major e-cigarette companies plunged in early trading on Monday after news of the planned ban broke.

Trading standards officials say more resources are needed to crack down on fraudulent retailers and that it may take time and different policies to stop e-cigarettes containing harmful illegal content from entering the UK and reaching children.

Local authorities can impose a maximum fine of £2,500 and the government announced a £30 million package to support enforcement in October.

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