Retailers will no longer be able to give free samples of vapes to children in England, the Prime Minister has announced.
This comes after recent NHS figures showed there was a 3% increase in 11-15 year olds using e-cigarettes between 2018-2021.
The announcement is part of new plans by the Government to clamp down on youth vaping.
Although it is illegal to sell vapes to under 18s, there is currently a loophole that allows retailers to give them out to children as free samples – using colourful products and packaging to target them.
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To tackle this issue, an ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’ is being introduced to implement the rules on vaping and stop underage sales.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: ‘Our new illicit vape enforcement squad, backed by £3 million, is on the case but clearly there is more to do. That is why I am taking further actions to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products.
‘The marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children is completely unacceptable and I will do everything in my power to end this practice for good.’
In addition to closing the loophole, the Government announced that there will also be a review into banning retailers selling ‘nicotine-free’ vapes to under-18s.
As well as police school liaison officers using new resources to keep illegal vapes out of schools.
Health minister Neil O’Brien called the marketing of vaping products to children ‘shameful’ and said that lessons on the health risks of vaping will be added to school curriculums for the first time.
‘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.’
Gillian Golden, CEO of the Independent British Vape Trade Association voiced her concern about the access to vapes by young people was on the rise but welcomed the announcements by the governments.
‘The loophole allowing free samples to be distributed regardless of consumer age is a gap that no self-respecting business should ever have considered exploiting. The IBVTA applauds the announcement that such activity will soon be illegal.’
Joe Murillo, chief regulatory officer of vape manufacturers Juul Labs said that more needs to be done to combat underage use of these products.
‘We believe that government, regulators, and industry can collectively take action to reduce the access and appeal of vaping to those underage, including by restricting the sale and marketing of vapes to this group.’