The government has launched a public consultation on youth vaping in what it calls its ‘next steps to create a smokefree generation’.
The move follows the recent announcement of its intention to raise the legal smoking age by a year each year, until it applies to the entire population.
The government is committed to ‘clamping down on vapes being promoted to children while ensuring adults who want to quit smoking remain supported’, it states. The consultation document includes proposals to restrict bright coloured packaging and ‘child-friendly’ flavours for vapes, as well as restricting the sale of disposable vapes which are ‘clearly linked’ to the rise in vaping in children. It also includes plans to regulate point-of-sale displays so that vapes are kept out of sight of children and away from sweets or other products likely to appeal to them.
The consultation also explores whether increasing the price of vapes will reduce the number of young people using them, as well as considering further restrictions for non-nicotine vapes and other nicotine products such as pouches.
While it is already illegal to sell vapes to children, it is ‘clear from recent statistics that vapes are too often targeted at children, with the promotion of cheap, colourful and sweet flavours commonplace’ the government states. Rates of youth vaping have tripled over the last three years, and one in five children has now used a vape, it says. A report from ASH in June this year found that more than half of children had reported seeing e-cigarettes being promoted in shops, and almost a third online. Among children who had vaped, almost 70 per cent said the most frequently used device was a disposable vape – up from 7 per cent in 2021 – with the most popular flavours fruit (60 per cent) followed by ‘sweet or soft drink’ (25 per cent).
The government consultation will run for eight weeks, with views sought from ‘the public, the retail sector, clinicians and medical professionals, public health stakeholders, academic experts, employers and trade unions’.
‘There has been a surge in vaping amongst children, which is why we’re taking action to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes,’ said health secretary Steve Barclay. ‘Vapes should never be used by children and we’re committed to reversing this trend. We also need to take bold action to protect future generations from the harms of smoking addiction, which damages health at every stage of life and costs the economy billions.’
‘Vaping is less dangerous than smoking but still has risks and can cause addiction,’ added chief medical officer Chris Whitty. ‘Vaping can be useful for smokers to quit, but should not be marketed to non-smokers and marketing them to children is utterly unacceptable.’
Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain report at ash.org.uk