The Government should consider bringing restrictions on marketing and packing for vapes in line with those on tobacco products to tackle their increased use among children, the health secretary has been told.
The Health and Social Care Select Committee advised that the Government could maintain its public health message on the value of vapes as quitting tool for smokers, while still ensuring their regulation keeps them out of reach of children.
In a letter sent to Steve Barclay today (19 July), Committee chair Steve Brine said that the vaping industry had ‘not gone far enough in ensuring that tis products do not appeal to a youth demographic’.
If the Government is serious about stopping children from vaping, it must ‘learn lessons from decades of public health work’ on reducing smoking rates’, it said.
Quoting Action on Smoking and Health’s (ASH) chief executive, Deborah Arnott, the letter stated: ‘Smoking rates among children aged 11 to 15 were 19% in 1982. In 2000 they were still 19%. We had had lots of education. We had had campaigns and this and that, but no regulation. Between 2000 and 2021, it went from 19% to 3%. Why?
‘Cigarettes were made much less affordable. They were put out of sight in shops. Advertising was banned. Packaging and labelling and bright appealing colours were got rid of. We need to do the same with vaping; we need to regulate to drive it down.’
The Committee also called for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) to assess the impact an excise tax on disposable vapes might have on children and smokers on lower incomes.
Mr Brine also wrote that ASH had evidenced that children are ‘highly price sensitive’, and that adding an excise charge of £5 would act as a deterrent.
Commenting on the letter, he said: ‘It’s clear to us that the vaping industry has not gone far enough to ensure that its products don’t appeal to children. When you have brightly coloured and branded vapes with flavours that name unicorns, sweets and popular fizzy drinks displayed in locations ranging from newsagents to chicken shops, it’s disingenuous for the industry to claim otherwise.’
He added: ‘Ministers need to focus, across Government, on the impact vaping is having in our schools, whether that be setting off smoke alarms in toilets or restricting access to them entirely for young people. We’ve heard this issue is really impacting on the delivery of education in schools and, post-pandemic in particular, this is the last thing we can afford.’