LONDON (AP) - In an effort to prevent children from becoming addicted to nicotine, the British government has announced plans to ban the sale of disposable vapes and restrict the range of flavors available. The government also aims to implement a controversial proposal prohibiting today’s young people from ever purchasing cigarettes.
Currently, it is illegal in the U.K. to sell vapes or tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. However, officials have expressed concern that youth vaping has tripled in the last three years, citing cheap and vibrant disposable vapes with enticing flavors like bubblegum and candy floss as a major contributing factor.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak emphasized the urgent need for action, stating, "Parents and teachers alike have expressed alarm about the increasing prevalence of vaping among children. We must ensure that children do not take up vaping and avoid the risks of addiction. Furthermore, the long-term health effects of vaping are not yet fully understood. Thus, it is imperative that we take decisive measures to eradicate this issue."
According to government data, disposable vapes, also known as e-cigarettes, are largely responsible for the alarming surge in underage vaping. Approximately 9% of individuals aged between 11 and 15 now use vapes.
Officials have warned that the nicotine present in these devices can be highly addictive. Withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and headaches.
Restricting Access to Vapes and Cigarettes: New Measures by the UK Government
The UK government has announced its plans to introduce new powers aimed at curbing the use of vape products among children. Expected to be implemented next year, these measures will focus on limiting the availability of flavors that are "specifically marketed at children." In addition, manufacturers will be required to adopt plainer packaging, while shops will need to relocate these products away from the sight of children. Shops found selling vapes illegally to minors will also face new fines.
Despite these restrictions, adults looking to quit smoking will still have access to vape kits, as emphasized by Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Stating that the government aims to strike a balance between supporting adult smokers in their journey to quit smoking while safeguarding children from access to such products.
In line with these efforts, the government plans to gradually increase the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes. This means that individuals born after January 1, 2009, will never legally be able to buy cigarettes.
This proposal has been praised by health experts who believe it will contribute positively to public health. However, it has faced criticism from some members of the Conservative Party, who view it as excessive intervention by the state.
Notably, this plan takes inspiration from a similar proposal in New Zealand. Although the New Zealand plans were abandoned after a change in government, the UK government remains committed to pursuing its objectives.
While there has been a significant decline in smoking rates in the UK over the past decades, with two-thirds reduction since the 1970s, official figures indicate that approximately 6.4 million people, accounting for around 13% of the population, still smoke.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that last month, France's National Assembly unanimously passed a bill prohibiting single-use and disposable electronic cigarettes. This move aims to safeguard young people who are drawn to these products due to their enticing flavors.
These developments reflect the ongoing efforts of governments worldwide to address the existing and emerging challenges associated with smoking and vaping.