Disposable vapes banned to protect children’s health

Disposable vapes will be banned in the UK as part of ambitious Government plans to tackle the rise in youth vaping and protect children’s health, the Prime Minister has announced today [Monday 29th January] on a visit to a school.  

The measure comes as part of the Government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, which was launched in October last year.  

Recent figures show that 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. 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. While vaping can play a role in helping adult smokers to quit, children should never vape. 

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 nine times in the last two years.    

As part of today’s package, new powers will be introduced to restrict flavours 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 from children and away from products that appeal to them, like sweets.  

To crack down on underage sales, the Government will also bring in new fines for shops in England and Wales that sell vapes illegally to children. Trading standards officers will be empowered to act ‘on the spot’ to tackle underage tobacco and vape sales. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose. 

Vaping alternatives – such as nicotine pouches – will also be outlawed for children who are increasingly turning to these highly addictive substitutes. 

The Government has again reiterated its commitment to bring about the first smoke-free generation and introduce legislation so children turning fifteen this year or younger can never legally be sold tobacco.  

To help ensure the success of the smoke-free generation plan, £30 million in new funding a year will be provided to bolster enforcement agencies – including Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Trading Standards – to implement these measures and stamp out opportunities for criminals.  

The 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 right 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 supporting the measure.  

The Government has a duty to protect children’s health, which is why it is taking bold and decisive action on smoking and vaping. This is the responsible thing to do to protect children for generations to come.  

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. 

“This historic announcement will be a powerful tool in support of our efforts to crack down on waste and boost recycling, as well as helping to create the first smoke-free generation.” 

Gavin Graveson, Veolia Senior Executive Vice President, Northern Europe, said: “When faced with an environmental crisis, every product that enters the market should be designed for recyclability. Disposable vapes are a clear example of when products have been designed with no thought for their environmental impact and should be subject to an extended producer responsibility scheme that incentivises the right eco-design.  

“Millions of disposable vapes have been littered, causing environmental damage, or thrown in bins where they cause weekly fires in recycling and waste trucks and treatment facilities.  

“We can’t afford to allow more pollution. Veolia’s recycling scheme has already recycled over one million vapes, and we support policies that will curb products with no end-of-life treatment.” 

The 10-week public consultation on Creating a smoke-free generation and tackling youth vaping closed on 6th December. Over 25,000 responses were analysed, and the Government’s response sets out plans for upcoming legislation, which will be introduced in Parliament shortly.  

Creating a smoke-free generation goes beyond the harm to public health. The trade in illicit cigarettes, hand-rolling tobacco, and other tobacco products have far-reaching implications. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimates that the illicit tobacco trade costs the UK economy around £2.8 billion a year in lost revenue – money that should fund our public services.  

Today, (29th January 2024), HMRC and Border Force will be releasing a new strategy called Stubbing Out the Problem to address the issue of illicit tobacco. The strategy’s primary focus is to reduce the demand for illegal tobacco and disrupt the organised crime behind its trade. The strategy also highlights the negative impact of illicit tobacco on the UK, which includes loss of tax revenue, burden on taxpayers, harm to law-abiding businesses, and funding of wider organised crime.

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