Trade bodies and charities have urged the government to impose stricter legislation on vaping within convenience stores, recommending restrictions on display, excise duties and fines of at least £10,000 for retailers caught selling to under-18s.
Last week, the Health and Social Care Committee held an inquiry into tackling a rise in vaping among children.
During the inquiry, illicit retailers were referenced as suppliers of vapes to children in schools.
Providing evidence on the issue, Action on Smoking Health (ASH) chief executive Deborah Arnott submitted proposals that could affect vaping sales in convenience stores. This included the introduction of a £5 excise duty on disposable vapes. If imposed, the duty could increase the wholesale price of a single Elfbar from Booker to £7.64.
Arnott urged MPs to impose restrictions making vapes less appealing to children by removing colourful branding, names associated with confectionery and cartoon characters.
She also suggested moving the products out of reach for children and making retailers remove vapes from the shop floor.
Better Retailing understands many of these packaging and placement changes are also backed by some major tobacco manufacturers.
Arnott said: “We’re seeing too large a level of [youth vaping] and we need to regulate. Between 2000 and 2021, smoking rates among children went from 19% to 3%.
“Cigarettes were made much less affordable, they were put out of site in shops, advertising was banned, colourful packaging and labelling were got rid of.
“We need to do the same with vaping and regulate to drive it down.”
John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), also submitted evidence at the inquiry, calling for stores to have licences in order to sell vapes. He said: “We’ve called for extreme action to be taken.
“We want to see all vape retailers licensed to sell these products, and that has to include robust age-verification processes and ensure they only sell legitimate, licensed products.”
Dunne added that trading standards officers in the UK do not have adequate support to tackle the issue due to underfunding, calling for more specialised investment.
He also called for minimum penalties of £10,000 for stores caught selling vapes to under 18s.
Speaking to Better Retailing following the meeting, Dunne criticised Arnott’s proposals for a £5 excise duty, warning: “Cutting off vaping by making it more expensive could have a negative impact on encouraging people to switch from smoking.”
In a sign of the public pressure on the government to adopt many of theses measures, freedom of information requests by RN revealed there have been more than 600 submissions to the government’s call for evidence on vaping.
Alongside industry firms, it is thought many are from schools, parents and councils calling for tougher laws on vaping sales.