The government intends to ban disposable vapes in a move to ‘protect children’s health’, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced.
Disposable vapes are a ‘key driver’ in the rise in the number of young people vaping, DHSC states, with the proportion of under-17s using vapes increasing almost ninefold over the last two years. There will also be new restrictions on flavours specifically aimed at children and a move towards ‘plainer, less visually appealing’ packaging. Vapes will also have to be displayed away from products like confectionary, and the sale of nicotine pouches to children will also be banned.
The announcements form part of the government’s response to its eight-week consultation on smoking and vaping, which received more than 25,000 responses. The government has also re-stated its intention to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ by preventing anyone currently aged 15 or under from ever being able to legally buy tobacco (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/government-plans-smoke-free-generation/).
‘The health advice is clear – vapes should only ever be used as a tool to quit smoking,’ said health secretary Victoria Atkins. ‘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.’
Banning disposable vapes when they were ‘so widely used’, however, would require strict enforcement to be effective, warned ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott. Illegal vapes were already ‘flooding the market’, even before a ban, she stated. ‘At the turn of the last century illegal tobacco was out of control, just as illegal vapes are now, but the number of illegal cigarettes on sale in the UK fell by 80 per cent between 2000 and 2021 after a comprehensive cross-government strategy was implemented. It’s excellent news that the government has updated its strategy for tackling illicit tobacco, but we are yet to see the same strategic approach applied to vapes.’
The ban on single-use vapes and restrictions on flavouring would make it harder for people to quit smoking and push those who had ‘back into smoking’, said chair of the Independent British Vape Trade Association, Marcus Saxton. ‘Big tobacco will be rubbing its hands with glee in anticipation of possible vape bans. Further, with an estimated third of the UK vape market comprising illicit products, any ban will simply benefit those pushing illegal and unregulated product as people seek out single-use and flavoured products from illicit sources.’
‘While banning disposables might seem like a straightforward solution to reduce youth vaping, it could have substantial unintended consequences for people who smoke,’ added Dr Sarah Jackson of UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care. ‘In the event of a ban, it would be important to encourage current and ex-smokers who use disposables to switch to other types of e-cigarettes rather than going back to just smoking tobacco.’
See tobacco harm reduction feature in the February issue of DDN