UK vaping ban: government set to ban single-use vapes to stop children becoming addicted
Doctors have criticised the government in the past for failing to crack down on brightly-coloured packaging and child-friendly flavours used by vape companies, such as ‘banana milkshake’ and ‘jelly babies’.
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Ministers are poised to ban single-use vapes in the UK in a bid to stop children becoming addicted to the nicotine-packed devices.
The Telegraph reported on Tuesday (12 September) that the decision was made after the government concluded that the products are overwhelmingly targeted at children, despite it being illegal to sell them to those under the age of 18. Ministers pointed to their brightly-coloured packaging, flavours such as “bubblegum”, and the fact that in shops they are often found at the counter - next to the sweets and chocolate.
Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan did not deny the reports, telling Sky News: “We have been looking into this and have been doing a review because this is a very worrying trend that we’re seeing of young children taking up vaping that had never smoked before, and it is extremely dangerous to their health and their wellbeing.
“It is something that we do need to act on and, as a government, what we’re trying to do is recognise what are the key challenges and grip them.”
When pressed on whether vapes will be banning vapes next week, she said: “We’ll be making further announcements on that.”
It comes after a number of medical professionals have called for action to protect the health of children. Doctors previously criticised the government for failing to crack down on e-cigarettes being sold in child-friendly packaging - and for failing to heed warnings about them being named after popular sweet treats, such as banana milkshake and jelly babies.
Professor Andrew Bush, a consultant paediatric chest physician at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, said at the time: “I am concerned that we are sleepwalking into a public health catastrophe with a generation of children hooked on nicotine.”
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health added that “youth vaping is fast becoming an epidemic among children”, as it warned that e-cigarettes are “not a risk-free product and can be just as addictive, if not more so, than traditional cigarettes”.
Experts have also argued that more data is needed on the longer-term effects of vaping.
Earlier this month figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that more than seven million vapes are bought every week in the UK – double the amount bought in 2022.
There was also a large increase in vaping among teenagers and young adults in the UK, with 15.5% of 16 to 24-year-olds saying they vaped either daily or occasionally in 2022, up from 11.1% in 2021. This figure is expected to increase again for 2023.
Meanwhile, NHS data recently revealed a rise in the number of children and young people admitted to hospital due to vaping. 40 were hospitalised last year due to “vaping-related disorders”, including lung damage, respiratory disease, or worsening asthma symptoms - up from 11 two years earlier.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, said previously: “If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape.”
Officials carrying out the plans will be considering the impact on those trying to quit ‘traditional’ smoking. Research has found that vapes are the best way to drop the habit, with those who use them twice as likely to stop smoking than those who try to stop suddenly.
Ministers are understood therefore to have decided not to copy Australia by banning all vaping without a prescription. The Telegraph reported that this was because they have accepted the benefits e-cigarettes have when it comes to helping smokers quit.
In additional to health concerns, there have also been calls for one-use, disposable vapes to be banned to protect the environment. Recycling campaign group Material Focus said five million vapes are thrown away every week - as only 17% of users correctly recycle the products in a shop or local recycling centre.
Material Focus warned that vapes are toxic and can be damaging to the environment and wildlife if littered, adding that, when not disposed of correctly, they can also cause fires because of the batteries hidden inside them.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement: “We are concerned about the rise in youth vaping and the environmental impacts of disposable vapes.
“That is why we launched a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products – and explore where the government can go further. We will set out our response in due course.”