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Disposable vapes to be banned in Britain to protect children’s health

Disposable vapes to be banned in Britain to protect children’s health

Disposable vapes will be banned in the UK as part of the prime minister’s plan to tackle the rise in young people vaping and protect children’s health.

It will be announced during a school visit on Monday and forms part of the government response to its consultation on smoking and vaping launched in October last year.

New data shows the number of children vaping has tripled in the last three years with a significant proportion (nine per cent) of 11 to 15-year-olds using the devices, while the number of 11 to 17-year-old vapers increased almost ninefold in the last two years.

Restrictions will be placed on flavours, packaging and product positioning (EPA)
Restrictions will be placed on flavours, packaging and product positioning (EPA)

Powers will be introduced to restrict flavours, enforce plainer packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of children’s sight. Campaigning MPs have long commented on how flavours are named after sweets and displayed in bright colours.

New fines will be brought in for shops selling vapes illegally to children allowing trading standards officers to act “on the spot”. Local authorities can already impose a maximum £2,500 fine and the new fines are expected to build on this. Vaping alternatives – such as nicotine pouches – will also be banned for children.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “As any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends at the moment is the rise in vaping among children, and so we must act before it becomes endemic.

“The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable.

New data shows the number of children vaping has tripled in the last three years (PA)
New data shows the number of children vaping has tripled in the last three years (PA)

“Alongside our commitment to stop children who turn 15 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes, these changes will leave a lasting legacy by protecting our children’s health for the long term.”

Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, said: “Smoking is still the single largest preventable cause of death in England. Almost every minute of every day someone is admitted to hospital with a smoking-related disease. And it costs society £17 billion each year – putting a huge burden on our NHS.”

The government advises that vapes should only be used by adults as a tool to quit smoking and they contribute to an extra 50,000 to 70,000 smoking quits a year in England.

As part of the government’s “swap to stop” scheme, almost one in five of all adult smokers in England will have access to a vape kit alongside behavioural support to help them quit the habit.

Vaping contributes to an extra 50,000 to 70,000 people quitting smoking a year (PA)
Vaping contributes to an extra 50,000 to 70,000 people quitting smoking a year (PA)

Chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty said: “If passed, this legislation would have a major public health impact across many future generations.”

The ban also aims to have a positive impact on the environment as five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week, up from 1.3 million from last year and the legislation will be brought in under the Environmental Protection Act.

Environment secretary Steve Barclay said: “Not only are disposable vapes often targeted, unacceptably, at children – they also represent a huge and growing stream of hard-to-recycle waste, with nearly five million thrown away every week.”

HMRC estimates that the illicit tobacco trade costs the UK economy around £2.8bn a year in lost revenue – money that should fund public services.

On Monday, HMRC and Border Force will publish a new illicit tobacco strategy – Stubbing Out the Problem – setting out how it will aim to reduce the trade in illicit tobacco and tackle and disrupt organised crime behind the illicit tobacco trade. The news comes as new figures revealed that four million illegal vapes were seized at the border in the last year, quadrupling from the year before.

Dr Mike McKean, vice president for policy at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), welcomed the news, saying: “Bold action was always needed to curb youth vaping and banning disposables is a meaningful step in the right direction. I’m also extremely pleased to see further much-needed restrictions on flavours, packaging and marketing of vapes, which RCPCH has repeatedly called for.

“Government must swiftly lay the legislation to ensure it can be fully considered in this parliament. We look forward to seeing more details about these landmark plans, especially in terms of implementation, enforcement and monitoring.”