Welcomed Change: UK Government to Crack Down on Illegal Sale of E-cigarettes to Children
The UK government is set to announce plans to make it more difficult for children to illegally purchase e-cigarettes. The Department of Health will allocate £3m to tackle the issue and create an enforcement squad made up of trading standards officers to clamp down on shops selling vapes to under-18s. Health Minister Neil O'Brien is particularly concerned about the rising use of disposable vapes. The measures will also call for help in identifying how best to stop children from vaping. Only people aged 18 and over can buy vapes or e-cigarettes in the UK, but there has been growing pressure on the government to crack down on illegal sales to children. NHS figures for 2021 showed that the reported usage of e-cigarettes had risen to 9% among 11 to 15-year-olds in England, up from 6% in 2018. In the same period, vaping among 15-year-old girls jumped from 10% to 21%. A more recent survey from public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and King's College London found that about one-in-11 (8.6%) young people in England either occasionally or regularly vape. The enforcement squad will carry out projects across England, including making test purchases at convenience and vape shops, and will have the power to remove illegal products from sale. Vapes or e-cigarettes are considered safer than normal cigarettes because they do not contain harmful tobacco, but the NHS advises that they are not risk-free, and the long-term implications of using them are not yet clear. Trading Standards has said that shops selling illegal vapes and the sale of e-cigarettes to children are the top threats to the UK's High Streets. There is concern that cheap, brightly-coloured vapes are ending up in the hands of 12 and 13-year-olds, with experts discouraging young non-smokers from taking up the habit. ASH has called for plainer packaging on vaping products to make them less attractive to children. Councils in England have also said vapes should be kept out of sight of children in shops and the legal minimum age of 18 should be marked clearly on each product. The UK Vaping Industry Association said the solution is to enforce existing laws on retailers rather than focus on packaging.