Industry leaders welcome government’s ban on disposable vapes

Disposable vapes will be banned in the UK as part of government plans to tackle the rise in youth vaping and protect children’s health, the Prime Minister has announced.

The measure comes as part of the government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping.

Recent figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled. Vape use among younger children is also rising, with 9% of 11 to 15 year olds now using vapes, according to the government.

The long-term health impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine contained within them can be highly addictive, with withdrawal sometimes causing anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches.

Disposable vapes have been a key driver behind the alarming rise in youth vaping, with the proportion of 11 to 17 year old vapers using disposables  increasing almost ninefold in the last 2 years.   

The government said that new powers will be introduced to restrict flavours which are specifically marketed at children and ensure that manufacturers produce plainer, less visually appealing packaging.

The powers will also allow the government to change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of sight of children and away from products that appeal to them, like sweets.  

The government said it will also bring in new fines for shops in England and Wales which sell vapes illegally to children.

Vaping alternatives – such as nicotine pouches – will also be outlawed for children.

The government has also reiterated its commitment to bring about the first smokefree generation and introduce legislation so children turning 15 this year or younger can never legally be sold tobacco.  

Smoking is the UK’s single biggest preventable killer – causing around 1 in 4 cancer deaths and leading to 80,000 deaths per year.

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, said the government must act before the rise in vaping among children ‘becomes endemic’.

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.  

Health and social care secretary, Victoria Atkins, said that by banning disposable vapes, the government is ‘preventing children from becoming hooked for life’.

Henry Gregg, director of external affairs at Asthma + Lung UK, said the charity welcomed the approach to protect young people from vaping. He said that immediate action to restrict flavours, packaging, and the display of vapes to reduce their appeal and availability to children and non-smokers is much needed.

Henry said: “Smoking is the biggest cause of lung disease deaths and today’s [29 January] decision will save thousands of lives.”

Public health charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), raised concerns previously about disposable vapes fuelling a growth in underage vaping after a 2022 survey, which showed a rise in underage vaping with disposables the majority choice. This trend has continued.

The new law will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “The government’s strategy is the right one: stop smoking initiation, support smokers to quit by using the most effective methods, while protecting children by curbing youth vaping.”

The National Association of Head Teachers said its members have reported dealing with incidents of vaping on school grounds and in school buildings.

Sarah Hannifin, head of policy at the school leaders’ union, said members are concerned about how accessible vapes seem to be for young people.

She said: “The responsibility of manufacturers and retailers not to market or sell these products for use by under 18s is critical so the powers relating to packaging and display in shops are welcome.”

A survey by teachers’ union NASUWT found that 85% of teachers said vaping is a problem on school premises and had increased over the last year. Shockingly, many pupils as young as 11 were vaping regularly.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the union, said teachers and schools need to be provided with greater resources to deal with the problems caused by this ‘epidemic’.

The 8-week public consultation on ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping’ closed on 6 December. Over 25,000 responses were analysed, and the government response sets out plans for upcoming legislation which will be introduced in Parliament shortly.  

Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, said the announcement will help tackle the issue of vaping being normalised for young children, and that many children and parents will be ‘extremely relieved’.

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