The Government has vowed to launch a major crackdown on the marketing of vapes to children, with Health Minister Steve Barclay claiming that firms which promote bubble gum flavours, are making them “look like sweets”.
Selling vapes to children is already illegal, but ministers claim that recent statistics show vapes are too often targeted at kids with the promotion of cheap, colourful and sickly flavours commonplace.
This is despite the addictive nature of nicotine and the long term harms of vapes being unknown. Nicotine vapes in particular can be highly addictive and withdrawal causes anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches, the Government maintains.
People of all ages are now being invited to take part in a public consultation seeking views on plans to crack down on youth vaping by reducing the appeal, affordability and availability of vapes to children.
The consultation launched today and is open to anyone, of any age, in the UK and includes proposals to restrict child-friendly flavours and bright coloured packaging. People have eight weeks to share their experiences and opinions and help shape future policy on vaping and smoking.
Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled plans to introduce a new law to stop children who turn 14 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes, in a bid to create the first ‘smoke-free generation’. Smoking is the UK’s biggest preventable killer – causing around 1 in 4 cancer deaths and 64,000 in England alone – claimed to cost the economy and wider society £17bnn each year.
Recent figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled, with 20.5% of children aged between 11 and 17 having tried vaping in 2023, according to Action on Smoking & Health (ASH).
Similar trends are reflected globally, including in Canada and New Zealand. Use among younger children is also rising, with 9% of 11- to 15-year-olds reportedly using vapes, according to a 2021 survey by NHS Digital.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast to launch the consultation, Barclay said: “What we’re most concerned about is the direct marketing of vapes to children, particularly with bubble gum flavours, making them look like sweets. That is completely inappropriate and that’s why we’re having a very quick consultation, in just eight weeks.”
Quite how any new rules would work is not clear; the issue is already firmly in the sights of the Advertising Standards Authority. Last month the regulator launched a major crackdown on TikTok creators, battering eight influencers for plugging nicotine-containing vapes of four separate brands despite not a single complaint from the public being lodged.
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