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HomePoliticsThe ban on free vaping for children will be implemented.

The ban on free vaping for children will be implemented.


Rishi Sunak has announced a ban on rogue firms targeting children with colorful free samples of vapes.

It comes after recent NHS figures showed nine per cent of 11- to 15-year-old children were using e-cigarettes in 2021 – up from six per cent in 2018.

Selling vaping to those under 18 is illegal, but a loophole exists that allows unscrupulous companies to hand out free samples of vaping products.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said that while vaping can help adult smokers to quit, it is important to ensure that non-smokers are not encouraged to start.

The Prime Minister also announced a review of the ban on retailers selling “nicotine-free” vapes to under-18s. This ensures that the rules keep pace with how vaping products are used.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Mr Sunak said an increase in the use and promotion of cheap, colorful products shows that some unscrupulous companies are targeting children.

“I am deeply concerned about the surge in vaping by children and I am shocked by reports of illegal vaping containing lead ending up in the hands of schoolchildren,” he said.

“Our new illegal vape enforcement squad – backed by £3 million – is working on the case, but there is clearly more to do. That’s why I’m taking further action today to crack down on rogue companies that are unlawfully targeting our children with these products.

“The marketing and illegal sale of vapes to children is completely unacceptable and I will do everything in my power to end this practice for good.”

Prof Whitty said: “While vaping can be an effective means of quitting smoking, it is important that non-smokers are not encouraged to take up vaping. There has been a particularly concerning rise in the number of children using vapes, with companies clearly marketing these products to children using colors, flavors and cheap disposable options.

“Closing the loophole that allows companies to hand out free samples of vaping products to under-18s is a very welcome step in addressing some of the harms being caused by the vaping industry.

“We must continue to encourage smokers to switch to vaping as the least risk, while preventing the marketing and sale of vaping to children.”


There will also be a review of the rules for fining shops that illegally sell vapes to under-18s to make it easier for local trading standards to issue fines and fixed fines on the spot.

This is intended to complement existing fining and sanctioning procedures and will cover both illegal and underage sales of vaping and tobacco where possible.

Neil O’Brien, the health minister, said: “The shameful marketing of vaping products to children is leading more and more people to try e-cigarettes. Today, we are therefore stepping up our efforts to prevent children from becoming addicted to vaping, including taking action to crack down on companies that give out free vape samples to under-18s and teaching about the health risks for the first time of vaping to the curriculum.

“We will also review the rules for on-the-spot fines against shops that break the law by selling vapes to underage children, and explore whether we can ban the sale of nicotine-free vapes to under-18s – which we know will can be a gateway to the use of nicotine products. In addition, our new specialized ‘Illegal Vape Enforcement Team’ will also act against online shops selling illegal vapes to under-18s.

“This builds on the action announced last month to protect the health of our children and tackle underage vaping, while unlocking the potential of vaping to help adult smokers quit.”

In a recent Action on Smoking and Health Smokefree 2023 GB Youth Survey of 11 to 17 year olds, two in five young people said they vape “to give it a try” and about one in five because “other people like them so I do along”.

The health risks of vaping will also be included in Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) classes, as part of the government’s ongoing review of RSHE, to further discourage children from taking up vaping.

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