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Disposable vapes are to be banned in the UK as part of a drive to protect children’s health, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned that youth vaping could become “endemic”.
Sunak will on Monday also announce new powers to restrict vape flavours and require plain packaging as part of an attempt to make sure the products do not appeal to children.
Although many Conservative MPs are instinctively opposed to bans, viewing them as tools of a “nanny state”, Sunak said he had “an obligation to do what I think is right for the country in the long term”.
“As any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends at the moment is the rise in vaping among children and so we must act before it becomes endemic,” he said.
“The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable,” Sunak added.
He is also bringing forward legislation — announced at last year’s Conservative party conference — to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, in an effort to create a “smoke-free generation”.
Former Tory prime minister Liz Truss criticised the tobacco legislation and said it would “create an absurd situation where adults enjoy different rights based on their birth date”.
“A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state,” she added.
The vaping measures are expected to win support from the Labour party, which has also said it backs Sunak’s smoking crackdown.
Vape manufacturers said they were “dismayed” by the prime minister’s plan to ban disposable vapes, which they said helped to reduce UK smoking rates.
In the year to the end of July, £1.3bn worth of disposable e-cigarettes were sold in Britain, according to NielsenIQ data. Chinese-owned brands Elf Bar and Lost Mary accounted for more than two-thirds of the entire market.
About a fifth of children aged between 11 and 17 had tried vaping as of 2023, up from 14 per cent in 2020 before the first Covid-19 lockdown, according to Action on Smoking and Health. A smaller proportion, 3.6 per cent, vaped more than once a week, the ASH data showed.
The UK government, which launched a consultation on smoking and vaping last October, said disposable vapes were behind the rise in youth vaping.
New legal powers will restrict vape flavours aimed at children and require manufacturers to use “less visually appealing packaging”. Shops will also be forced to move vaping products out of sight of children and away from areas such as sweet counters.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “Today’s announcements are a vital stepping stone on the path to ending the smoking epidemic once and for all.”
“The government’s strategy is the right one: stop smoking initiation, support smokers to quit by using the most effective methods, while protecting children by curbing youth vaping,” she added.
The UK Vaping Industry Association said: “While action to prevent youth access to vaping is critical, this moves smacks more of a desperate attempt by the government to sacrifice vapers for votes ahead of the upcoming general election.
“We will hold the government to account for the increased smoking rates and the lives and jobs that will be lost as a result of this shocking and ill thought through decision.”