Children Health

UK to ban disposable vapes in bid to protect children’s health

Any retailer selling tobacco or vapes to underage customers face “on the spot” fines of up to £2,500 (US$3,174), under the legislation. Vaping alternatives – such as nicotine pouches – will also be banned for children.

There has been concern that vaping could be driving nicotine addiction among young people. Photo: Reuters

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in December all vape flavours should be banned.

The UK measures are part of the government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, launched in October last year. Sunak plans to outlaw anyone born on or after January 1, 2009 from buying tobacco, in a bid to create a “smoke free generation”.

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“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,” the prime minister said.

The government pointed to data showing that the number of children vaping in the last three years has tripled, with 9 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds now using the devices.

Disposable vapes have driven the increase. The proportion of 11 to 17-year-old vapers using disposables increasing almost ninefold in the last two years, it said.

The government added that disposable vapes are environmentally damaging. Five million are thrown away each week, a number that it says is “equivalent to the lithium batteries of 5,000 electric vehicles”.

The Welsh and Scottish governments will also introduce the ban. The Northern Ireland Assembly is not sitting since the collapse of power sharing two years ago.

In a pre-emptive strike against potential smugglers, £30 million (US$38 million) of new funding a year will be provided to bolster enforcement agencies, including the UK Border Force.

Health professionals welcomed the move. “Bold action was always needed to curb youth vaping and banning disposables is a meaningful step in the right direction,” said Mike McKean, vice-president for policy at The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

“I’m also extremely pleased to see further much needed restrictions on flavours, packaging, and marketing of vapes.”

But the legislation also has detractors. “While the state has a duty to protect children from harm, adults must be able to make their own choices,” said Liz Truss, the former prime minister.

“Banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later will create an absurd situation where adults enjoy different rights based on their birth date. A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state,” she said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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