Disposable vapes are to be banned in the UK under new plans to tackle a rise in the use of the devices among young people. The announcement is part of the government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, which was launched in October last year.
Under the new legislation – which is subject to consultation and is unlikely to be implemented before the end of this year – powers will be introduced to restrict flavours and packaging designs which are specifically marketed at children. There will also be new rules governing how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of sight of children and away from products such as sweets. Vaping alternatives, such as nicotine pouches, will also be outlawed for children.
There will be new fines for shops in England and Wales which sell vapes illegally to those under the age of 18, with Trading Standards Officers empowered to issue ‘on the spot’ fines for underage tobacco and vape sales. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose.
CTSI, which has previously called for tighter rules around the display and sale of vapes, has welcomed the announcement. The Institute said that it is pleased to see that a number of recommendations it proposed early last year have been included as part of the plans.
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, commented: “We are very pleased to see that Government have now provided the clarity that disposable vapes will be banned. This is an important first step in protecting young people from what has been an increasing risk that Trading Standards has been highlighting for some time now. However, whilst it’s good to see the commitment to protecting young people by banning disposable vapes the effectiveness of these plans will depend on the tools and resourcing made available to Trading Standards and other partners to ensure effective enforcement.
“Trading Standards are a crucial player in achieving compliance and protecting communities at a local level, and we look forward to continued discussions in how the £30m of funding per year will be best allocated, and we would welcome a commitment that similar funding and resourcing will be made available for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, because this is a UK-wide problem.”
CTSI Lead Officer for Vaping, Kate Pike, said: “In order to support businesses to ensure that disposable vapes are no longer sold, we’ll need a really clear definition on what is included and how to identify them. It’s easy to say something is banned – we need clear and practical legislation and guidance to ensure it actually happens. We also need to be able to stop all illegal vapes coming into the country in the first place so effective legislation which bans imports, as well as increased resources at ports and borders, will be vital”.
Announcing the plans, 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.
“As Prime Minister I have an obligation to do what I think is the right thing for our country in the long term. That is why I am taking bold action to ban disposable vapes – which have driven the rise in youth vaping – and bring forward new powers to restrict vape flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops.
“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.
“There was overwhelming support among responses to the government’s consultation for a disposable vape ban, with nearly 70% of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and the general public supportive of the measure.”
Government figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled. Use among younger children is also rising, with 9% of 11- to 15-year-olds now using vapes.
Disposable vapes have been a key driver behind the trend, with the proportion of 11- to 17-year-old vapers using disposables increasing almost ninefold in the last two years.
Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins commented: “The health advice is clear: vapes should only ever be used as a tool to quit smoking. But we are committed to doing more to protect our children from illicit underage vaping, and by banning disposable vapes we’re preventing children from becoming hooked for life.
“Vapes should only be used by adults as a tool to quit smoking. They contribute to an extra 50,000 to 70,000 smoking quits a year in England.”
To coincide with the announcement, HMRC and Border Force have published a new illicit tobacco strategy, Stubbing out the problem, which sets out plans to reduce the trade in illicit tobacco, with a focus on reducing demand, alongside disrupting the organised crime networks behind the illicit tobacco trade.