Teenagers vaping

NHS stats show spikes in underage vaping as government moves to close free samples loophole

The government is making moves to crack down on vaping as NHS statistics show recent increases in underage users thanks to industry loophole.

Under new plans, retailers will no longer be allowed to give children free vape samples in England, Rishi Sunak has announced today – health service figures for 2021 indicate that 9% of 11-15-year-olds use e-cigarettes, up from 6% in 2018.

While selling e-cigarettes to under 18s is illegal, the government emphasises that it is “clear” from the increasing use of vibrant and colourful marketing ploys, children are being targeted.

The government is also considering outlawing alleged nicotine-free vapes for children, in a move the government say is designed to mirror the changing way e-cigarettes are being used.

Prime minister, Rishi Sunak, explained: “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.”

The NHS deems vaping an effective tool to stop smoking with some reviews showing that e-cigarettes combined with expert support can double your chances of quitting compared to nicotine replacement products.

However, England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, notes it is important that non-smokers don’t pick up the habit as well.

He said: “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.”

“We will also review the rules on issuing on the spot fines to shops that break the law by selling vapes to underage children, and look into banning the sale of nicotine-free vapes to under 18s – which we know can be a gateway to using nicotine products,” health minister, Neil O’Brien, added.

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NHE May/June 2024

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