The UK government is set to close a loophole that enables retailers to give free samples of vapes to children as part of a wider plan to curb child vaping.
This move comes after NHS figures for 2021 showed that 9% of 11-15-year-old children used e-cigarettes, an increase from 6% in 2018.
The government is considering banning retailers from selling ‘nicotine-free’ vapes to under-18s to ensure rules ‘keep up with the way that vaping products are being used.’
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I am deeply concerned about the sharp rise in kids vaping and shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of school children.
“Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by £3m – is on the case, but clearly there is more to do. That is why I am taking further action today to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products.
“The marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children is completely unacceptable and I will do everything in my power to end this practice for good.”
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Although selling vapes to those under 18 years of age is illegal in the country, there has been a rise in the use of vapes by teenagers.
The recent increase in the use and promotion of cheap, colourful products has prompted the government move.
The Guardian reported that while it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to those under 18, it is not unlawful for retailers and marketing firms to provide free samples of vapes.
Vapes are not considered tobacco products and are not covered under the tobacco advertising rules. As a result, they can be distributed freely.
The U government will also review the rules on fining retail outlets that sell vapes to under-18s illegally to allow local Trading Standards to issue spot fines and fixed penalty notices more easily.