Youth Vaping Being Cracked Down On By Government

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We all know that the current amount of adult vapers in the UK currently sits at the highest number it’s ever been which is brilliant news, as this means that there are less smokers in the UK than before. But what is causing some cause for concern is that the number of youth vapers in the UK seems to be slowly increasing year on year as well.

This is largely down to the huge boom in popularity of Disposable Vapes, with many of those asked in surveys admitting it’s these devices that they are using, whether it be regularly or have just tried once or twice in the past.

Calls have been made for these devices to be banned in a bid to protect youths from having access to them and using them, and this week, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has even got involved to declare the intentions of the Government and what they are going to do to crackdown and prevent these numbers from rising further, which is what I’m going to discuss in this article. Let’s get into it!

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ASH’s 2023 Survey On Youth Vaping

Every year Action on Smoking and Health publish a survey, normally commissioned by them and conducted by YouGov which looks into the behaviours, knowledge and usage of E-Cigarettes amongst a specific amount of 11-17 year olds who have been asked in this survey.

This year’s survey results proved quite an interesting read, as it showed that “experimental vaping” amongst 11-17 year old youths was on the rise, with youths admitting to merely trying out a device once or twice more frequently than what it was reported last year with the number rising from 7.6% to 11.6%

But what is really interesting is that there is no significant change when it comes to the amount of youths admitting to be “current vapers” which means they often/frequently use an e-cigarette with the number ever so slightly rising to 7.6% from 6.9% the year prior.

Nearly three quarters of those surveyed who said that they vape said that their first vape was given to them, with two thirds saying from friends, but for children who currently vape, nearly 75% of them admitted they buy their vapes themselves from shops, mostly corner/convenience shops which is one of the big problems that Trading Standards Agencies are having.

ASH also uncovered the fact that children are aware of Vaping due to promotions in shops where exposure has grown significantly from 37% to 52% in a year, another big thing that then Government are wanting to crackdown on.

And it was the results of this survey that has really booted the Government into somewhat of an overdrive to get things rolling to stop this, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak now getting involved and releasing a statement with a clear plan set out for what’s going to happen to stop these numbers from rising even further. Let’s have a look at it…

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Rishi Sunak Speaks Up On The Matter

The Government have kind of been lurking in the shadows when it comes to cracking down on things regarding Vaping, even with the news being published about Trading Standards Agencies seizing counterfeit disposables by the tonne from shops up and down the country, and calls from pro vaping campaigners for something to be done by the Government to help fell somewhat on deaf ears for a long time.

However, earlier this year, there was an announcement from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Primary Care and Public Health) Neil O’Brien MP, regarding what the Government would be doing to help the current state of affairs within the vaping industry. It was in this announcement that the “Stop To Swap” scheme was introduced as well as unveiling the plans of a large cash injection to form a “Hit Squad” within Trading Standards Agencies to really start clamping down on shops selling illicit vaping devices to anyone, most notably youths by bulking up the task force and getting more presence on the street, something that was long overdue.

And it was this week that our Prime Minister Rishi Sunak himself has gotten involved and spoken up on the matter at hand and laid out exactly what’s going to be done to combat the youth vaping numbers from rising, which I’m now going to take a look at.

New Illicit Vape Enforcement Squad

This is the “hit squad” as it was dubbed that the Government plans on rolling out. This was funded with £3 million to create a dedicated task force to go out onto the streets and clamp down and rid the streets of these shops bthat are openly selling illicit vaping devices, normally featuring nicotine content which is above the legal limit or the amount of vape juice inside these devices is way over 2ml, and also freely selling them to minors without carrying out the correct age verification process either.

Mr Sunak has further backed this team by showing willingness to do more to ensure that this hit squad is working to optimal levels and cracking down on these shops. He’s also vowed that it will be easier to issues fines to these shops that are flouting the rules, whereas it’s previously been a case of a slap on the wrist and they get away with it.

Review The Rules On Nicotine Free Vapes Being Sold To Minors

Now, this is something that Sunak focused on but it’s kind of baffling to me that this actually needed clarification but still, it obviously does.

If you didn’t already know, vaping products are age restricted products, and you have to be 18 years or older to buy anything vape related, just like you have to be to buy cigarettes. This is because the products contain nicotine and that’s what is what is age restricted.

The grey area has always been around vaping products that do not actually contain nicotine, such as tanks, mods, AND nicotine free vape juice. But these are still restricted due to the fact that they MAY eventually contain nicotine. And Nicotine Free Disposables are classed in this category as even though they say nicotine free, they may actually contain nicotine.

Within Sunak’s statement, as well as Neil O’Brien echoing it, they said that they wanted to ban the sale of nicotine free vapes to under 18’s, but this shouldn’t have ever been happening in the first place and the ban is already in place, so I don’t quite understand this.

Vapes & Schools

Obviously, the large majority of the 11-17 year old youths that are surveyed by YouGov are still in school, and at this age, they’re at the most impressionable and peer pressure is rife. Which was shown with the answers of they tried a vape “just to try it, or because my friend had one” and it’s estimated at least 1 in 5 joined in “just to fit in” as their friends were vaping.

This has encouraged Rishi Sunak to make the vow to create more resources to give to dedicated Police school liaison officers to distribute and educate these children on to keep vapes out of schools in hope to lower down the numbers of school kids using them. Some schools have gone as far as installing “vape detectors” in toilets and secluded areas of schools so that if anyone was trying to use a vape in school, these detectors will set off.

The next part of what Sunak says is what has really tilted me a bit. He’s pledged to make sure that “the health risks of vaping” will be also included in Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) lessons, as part of the government’s ongoing review of RSHE, in order to further discourage children from taking up vaping.

The health risks of vaping. What health risks are they going to be discussing here? I can’t really think off the top of my head any health risks related to vaping that needs to be drilled into children. If they’re so keen on this, where’s the health risks of smoking been within the curriculum? You know, the health risks which are ten fold compared to health risks of vaping. I don’t agree with this, as you probably would have guessed, and instead, education should be given on the health risks of smoking which a volume of children are still doing, marginally more than those actually vaping.

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What Happens Next?

Pretty clear and concise guidelines set out by Mr Sunak I think you’ll agree, but is this really enough being done, and is it the right things being done as well? Personally, I still think they’re missing the mark on a few things.

This is steps in the right direction for sure to combat youth vaping, but it feels a bit too late as there’s been numerous calls to crackdown on things stemming back to the 2021 Health and Social Care Bill Review that took place, and if measure had been introduced then, maybe these problems of youth vaping wouldn’t have spiked so hard like they currently have. As it was within the last 12/18 months that the popularity of Disposables really started booming.

The Government also announced a “Call for Evidence” on the topic of youth vaping in the UK when they announced the swap to stop scheme and other new measures a few weeks back, and this consultation period is due to end on the 6th June and I believe quick action is needed once all evidence has been accumulated. There’s been a lot of in between time from previous consultation periods ending and any action being taken so I’m hoping that there will be change this time.

Action on Smoking And Health made a recommendation that fell on deaf ears which was rising the cost of Disposable Vapes by £5 in the latest budget announcement, but this wasn’t listened to and they still remain at “pocket money prices” for youths which is as cheap as £2.99 in some shops. This is something that wouldn’t come as a surprise if it does come into effect after the consultation period as it’s something which could be pretty effective if it was implemented. This may also discourage adult users from frequently buying them as well.

I hope this article has helped give you more understanding and information on the Government’s next steps to take in regards to clamping down on the problem of youth vaping in the UK that is happening right now. I’ll be very interested in seeing what further steps will be taken by the Government once the consultation period for evidence has finished from next week and I’m sure there will be further content coming from me regarding this.

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