Councils call for tougher regulations to discourage children from vaping

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Wednesday 15th February 2023

Councils in England have called for tougher regulations to discourage children from vaping. Councils have suggested keeping e-cigarettes and other vaping products out of the sight of children in shops and including labelling, which makes it clear that products are only available to adults. It is illegal for those under the age of 18 to buy vapes and e-cigarettes in the UK. However, studies suggest that vaping has become more popular among younger children in recent years. Single-use products, such as Elf and Geek bars, have become particularly popular. They are widely available from newsagents and other high street stores and cost around £5.

Representatives from English councils believe that children are being sold products illegally. They also voiced concerns over the packaging used for vaping products, which is often colourful and likely to appeal to children and teenagers. The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for the same regulations to be applied to vaping products as cigarettes. These include using plain packaging and keeping products behind counters. Vaping is considered as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes and is often recommended for those who are trying to quit smoking, but health experts are keen to stress that it is not without risks. Vaping is still a relatively new concept and the long-term effects are not known. It is less dangerous than smoking because it doesn’t expose the individual to toxic substances, such as tar or carbon monoxide, but e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, which is addictive. Some doctors have also raised concerns over damage to the lungs caused by long-term vaping. 
There have been reports of some children who have vaped experiencing side effects, such as nosebleeds, a sore throat and headaches. Some have also suggested that they have become addicted to vaping.

Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), a public health charity, is pushing the government to introduce a new tax on disposable, single-use vaping products in the spring budget. The charity has suggested a ban on packaging that is bright and colourful and features cartoon characters and called for ID checks for people who look younger than 25. Research conducted by Trading Standards revealed that a third of stores have broken the law in relation to under-age sales of vaping products. There has also been a significant increase in counterfeit goods. The body seizes giant hauls of illegal, fake products from shops and ports regularly. 

The latest figures on vaping show that 8.6% of 11-18-year-olds in England vape. This is a significant increase from 4% in 2021. More than 50% of vapers in this age range use disposable products. In 2021, the figure was just 7.8%. In Scotland, the government has confirmed that it is considering a ban on single use vapes as part of plans to protect the environment and boost public health. The Irish Government is also in the process of carrying out a consultation on disposable products. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said that there are already stringent regulations governing the promotion of vaping products and advertising aimed at children. They added that the government is currently reviewing recommendations from the Khan report, ‘Making Smoking Obsolete,’ which includes suggestions to discourage children from vaping.