A loophole that allows the vape industry to give free samples of vapes to children in England is set to be closed under new plans announced by the Prime Minister to clamp down on youth vaping.
According to the UK government, this comes as recent NHS figures for 2021 showed that 9% of 11-to-15-year-old children used e-cigarettes, up from 6% in 2018.
Selling vapes to under 18s is illegal, however, they added that “it is clear from this recent rise in teenage usage of vapes and the recent surge in the use and promotion of cheap, colourful products that businesses are targeting children, which has prompted today’s action to crack down on this”.
The government also announced that there will be a review into banning the industry selling nicotine-free vapes to under 18s.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I am deeply concerned about the sharp rise in kids vaping and shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of school children.
“Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by £3m – is on the case, but clearly there is more to do. That is why I am taking further action today to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products.”
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “While vaping can be an effective quitting tool for smokers, it is important that non-smokers are not encouraged to start vaping. There has been a particularly worrying rise in the number of children using vapes, with companies clearly marketing these products at children using colours, flavours and cheap disposable options.
“Closing the loophole that allows companies to give out free samples of vaping products to under 18s is a very welcome step in tackling some of the harms caused by the vaping industry.”
Whitty added that there will also be a review into the rules on issuing fines to shops selling vapes to under 18s illegally to allow local trading standards to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices more easily.
Health minister Neil O’Brien explained that they will also be reviewing the rules on issuing on-the-spot fines to shops that break the law by selling vapes to underage children, and will be looking into banning the sale of nicotine-free vapes to under 18s.