Are you a parent or carer concerned about underage vaping? If so, you're likely to be invested in finding out what is actually being done to tackle this concern. In this article I'll explore the perceived prevalence of underage vaping – is it as rife as the media would have you believe? I'll also address concerns about what is currently being done to stop underage vaping and who should be held responsible.
There's no doubt in anyone's mind that children should not be vaping and shouldn't have access to vapes. Vapes are designed to help adult smokers quit and shouldn't be used by anyone who would not otherwise be smoking. They certainly aren't intended to be bought or used by anyone under the age of 18.
Before we determine how to tackle the problem of underage vaping, it would be sensible to establish how big of a problem It actually is.
Over the last few years, particularly, there's been an avalanche of sensationalist headlines about the "Youth vaping epidemic"[i]. Many of these articles highlight the effects of vapes that are in fact illegal[ii], or have been tampered with[iii] . Unsurprisingly, these headlines can cause panic and make parents, teachers, and carers extremely anxious. Yet, how accurate are these reports?
Underage Vaping - Facts and Figures
Let's be clear, if any number of children are vaping, there's a problem. However, it's also important to be accurate about how many children are vaping in the UK and what measures should be taken to prevent this.
According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) one in nine children currently vape.[iv] A significant proportion of these have been influenced by their peers. In fact, the report shows that there has been an increase in the number of children stating that they vape "because others do". ASH also reveals that 69% of children who have tried vapes use disposables.
So, with these statistics in mind, should there be an outright ban on disposable vapes?
Are Disposable Vapes the Problem?
Disposables can offer a fuss-free way for adult ex-smokers to switch to vaping and stop smoking for good.
The NHS[v] and the Government both show support for the use of vapes to stop smoking.
In fact, Andrea Leadsom, The Parliamentary Under-secretary for Health and Social Care stated:
"The best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking. As shown recently published Nicotine Vaping in England Report there is evidence that vapes are less harmful to health than smoking."[vi]
The NHS website says that:
"...Vapes or e-cigs, they're far less harmful than cigarettes and can help you quit smoking for good."
Single-use vapes are undoubtedly popular, with 30% of adult vapers using disposables as their main device.[vii] Therefore, it is an understandable concern that an outright ban on disposable vapes could result in adult ex-smokers returning to their unhealthy habit.[viii]
Who is Responsible for the Prevention of Underage Vaping?
When it comes to the enforcement of laws around vaping, it could be said that the buck stops with the law makers.
The Government is aware that in addressing the problem of underage vaping they need to:
"...Get the right balance between protecting our children and supporting adult smokers to quit."
The Government's proposals to prevent underage vaping
Responding to widespread concerns about underage vaping, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak announced plans to tackle underage vaping In October 2023. The Government subsequently launched a consultation regarding youth vaping. Initially, this consultation gathered the opinions and experiences of anyone of any age on various aspects of vaping.
Proposals within this consultation include:
- Restricting flavour and descriptions of vapes so they aren't targeting children
- Keeping vapes out of sight of children and separate from products that appeal to children
- Ensuring vape products and packaging aren't targeting children
- Restricting the sale of disposable vapes
There are those that place the responsibility for preventing underage vaping squarely on the shoulders of vape retailers. Certainly, vape shops and online retailers, such as Totally Wicked, have an unequivocal obligation to ensure we follow all relevant vaping rules and regulations.
We are a founding member of the IBVTA, a respected association which is:
"The trade organisation for all responsible and ethical independent vape businesses in the UK"
The Code, launched in Parliament on December 11th, is designed to help voluntarily regulate the vape sector. Totally Wicked has already committed to this Code of Conduct and is joined by many other businesses who are keen to ensure vapes are less appealing to children.
What is in the IBVTA Code of Conduct?
The crux of the code is to set out how single-use vapes should not "disproportionately appeal to children". In addition, it states that those involved in the sale of vapes "must ensure compliance with their recycling obligations".
What else is Totally Wicked doing to prevent underage vape sales?
We take our responsibilities as a premium vape brand extremely seriously. In fact, we've always taken every precaution to ensure our vapes are sold only to adults over the age of 18. This includes putting into place stringent age-verification processes, both in store and online. These processes are designed to prevent the sale of vapes to youths under the age of 18. They're also designed to minimise the risk of "proxy" sales. For example, if one of our store colleagues suspects a customer is attempting to purchase vapes for a child, they can refuse the sale.
No shop should be selling vapes to anyone under the age of 18 and the Government is taking further steps to punish those that do. This includes the creation of an "Illicit Vapes Enforcement Squad"[x].
The squad will:
- Tackle the import and sales of illicit vapes
- Penalise stores and online retailers who participate in underage vape sales
What Can Parents Do to Prevent Underage Vaping?
Our Technical Director, Liam Humberstone has written extensively on the topic of underage vaping. His article, "A Parent's Guide to Vaping" approaches the subject in a sensitive and sensible way. He notes how it's essential to be equipped with the correct information when speaking to your child about vaping.