Vapes should be taxed and displayed in plain packaging behind the counter to reduce their popularity with children, health officials and councils have warned.
To tackle the rapidly growing popularity among children and young people, Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) is calling on Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, to impose a £4 excise duty on single-use vapes on top of the usual price of £4.99.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is also calling for action, urging ministers to tighten regulations on the display and marketing of vaping products that match tobacco.
Ash chief executive Deborah Arnott said the government should tighten regulations and increase enforcement because vaping is “not harmless”, despite being less harmful than smoking.
He said: “Kids vaping mainly use cheap consumables which can be bought for under a fiver. Making them less affordable by adding a specific tax on single-use vapes in March’s budget would be a simple first step, reducing children’s vaping and the huge amounts of single-use vaping going to landfill.”
Ash data shows that 8.6% of 11 to 18-year-olds in England were vaping in 2022, compared to 4% in 2021. Campaigners stressed that any regulatory changes should not stop adults from using vaping for to help them quit smoking.
The LGA said its members had stepped up enforcement to tackle the growing number of shops selling vape to children despite the 18-year-old age limit, with many particularly concerned about child-friendly marketing, including colorful packaging and flavours. fruit and bubblegum.
He wants ministers to require vaping packs to reflect the smoke – in plain designs and not visible from behind the counter. It also calls for mandatory age-of-sale marking, a ban on free samples and tougher penalties for non-compliant stores.
A recent survey by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute suggested that shops selling illegal vapes or vaping products to children were the biggest enforcement issue, with the groups reporting a significant increase in sales to minors last year.
David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s community welfare board, said: “It is not right that shops should be able to display vaping paraphernalia prominently for all to see, like in a shop window, often in bright, colorful packaging that can appeal to children .
“Vapors should only be used as a smoking cessation aid. While research has shown that vaping carries a fraction of the risks of smoking, it is deeply concerning that more and more children – who have never smoked – are taking up vaping.”
Ash also recommended stricter marketing regulations, including a ban on cartoon characters and bright colors on packages. product names or descriptors associated with sweets, for example gummy bears; and ‘light up’ vapors that glow in the dark. He also proposed mandatory age verification for anyone who looks under 25.
John Herriman, chief executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said there was a “wild west” for retailers selling vaping and that many were “systematically breaking the law”. He suggested that a registration system for businesses selling vaping would create a clearer picture.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have introduced strict regulations to prevent vaping from appealing to children, including restrictions on product advertising, introducing limits on nicotine content, labeling and safety requirements and making it illegal to sell nicotine vapor in persons under 18 years of age.
“We are carefully considering the recommendations from Khan’s review, including what more can be done to protect children from vaping.”