Disposable vapes to be banned for children’s health along with new rules for packaging and displays
Disposable vapes are to be banned because of an ‘alarming rise’ in the amount of young people using them.
With the numbers of teenagers now vaping having tripled in three years, the government has unveiled plans to banish the throw-away devices and here's what the new laws would mean.
What is a disposable vape?
Disposable vapes are small pen or box-shaped devices, which are pre-filled with liquid and come with a pre-charged battery.
Unlike refillable devices which can be recharged and topped up, when the charge in the disposable vape and/or its liquid runs out, you cannot bring them back to life and instead they are thrown away.
Five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week – up from 1.3 million last year. Over a year, says the government, this is equivalent to the lithium batteries of 5,000 electric vehicles.
The instant and cheaper technology is understood to be the main reason as to why so many children are drawn to them. Add to that fun, sweet flavours and their brightly coloured look and the temptation is proving too great.
But the long term health impacts of vaping are still not fully understood. Health officials are clear however that the nicotine contained within them can be highly addictive – with growing evidence suggesting withdrawal symptoms can cause high levels of anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches.
Vaping, accepts the NHS, can help adult smokers kick the habit - contributing to an extra 50,000-70,000 smoking quits a year in England.
But while a helpful tool in giving up more harmful cigarettes and tobacco, the health message remains clear that children should never turn to vaping.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) Vice President for Policy, Dr Mike McKean, explained: “As a respiratory consultant it is not lost on me that smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and disease in the UK. We know this because we have 60-plus years of research and data on cigarette use on a population level.
“But the research and data around widespread e-cigarette use is still very much in its infancy. The long-term impacts, especially for children and young people, remain unknown.”
How many children are vaping?
Figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled. While use among very young children is also rising – with 9% of 11 to 15-year-olds estimated to be using vapes on a regular basis.
In a visit to a school on Monday, Rishi Sunak confirmed he plans to ban the sale of disposable vapes in the UK.
As part of efforts to tackle the rise in the number of young people using the devices – and to further protect their health – there are proposed new rules too for packaging, shop displays and flavours marketed to children.
The planned new laws
It is already illegal to sell a vape to anyone under the age of 18, but the availability of small, colourful disposable vapes is thought to be behind the rise in the numbers of children now using them regularly.
The government hopes its new bill will pass Parliament by the time of any general election - expected this year - with it coming into force officially in early 2025.
Once the timing of the bill is confirmed, and new laws passed, it is understood retailers will be given around six months to implement the fresh rules.
As part of the planned package, new powers will also restrict the flavours specifically marketed at children as well as making manufacturers produce plainer, less visually appealing packaging.
The government also plans to change how vapes are displayed in shops. It is suggested that they should be moved out of the sight of children, and away from similarly coloured products that appeal to them – like sweets.
To crackdown on underage sales tougher penalties are also being proposed for shops in England and Wales which sell vapes illegally to children.
Under the new plans, trading standards officers will be given the powers to act ‘on the spot’ to deal with underage tobacco and vape sales – building on a maximum £2,500 fine that councils can already impose.
Vaping alternatives – such as nicotine pouches – will also be outlawed for children who are understood to also be turning to these highly addictive substances in increasing numbers.
Health Minister Andrea Leadsom added: “We are in the midst of a worrying rise in young people vaping. I want to stop youth vaping in its tracks – and a ban on disposable vapes is central to that.
“Nicotine is highly addictive – and so it is completely unacceptable that children are getting their hands on these products, many of which are undeniably designed to appeal to young people. Along with tougher enforcement measures, we are making sure vapes are aimed at the people they were designed to help – adults who are quitting smoking.”
Raising a ‘smokefree generation’
The government’s plans form part of its commitment to bring about the ‘first smokefree generation’ by introducing legislation that means children turning 15 this year or younger will never be able to legally buy tobacco.
Smoking is the UK’s single biggest preventable killer, says the Department of Health, causing around one in four cancer deaths and leading to 80,000 deaths per year.
Stopping young people from ever starting smoking, say ministers, ‘will protect an entire generation and future generations’ from harm.
Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins explained: “Smoking is still the single largest preventable cause of death in England. Almost every minute of every day someone is admitted to hospital with a smoking-related disease. And its costs society £17 billion each year – putting a huge burden on our NHS.
“That’s why we are driving the way forward through our smokefree generation plan, which will prevent our children from starting this dangerous habit.”
To try and ensure the success of its vision – the government says £30 million a year will be provided to bolster enforcement agencies including Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Trading Standards. This will help them implement the measures and stamp out opportunities for criminals involved in the illicit trade of tobacco.
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.”