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Another week, another slew of questions and answers about vaping from the House of Commons

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Another week, another slew of questions and answers about vaping from the House of Commons. In the first of two pieces, we hear from Conservatives Mark Pawsey, Ranil Jayawardena, and Gareth Johnson – with Neil O'Brien batting back the answers. Also, Rishi Sunak has spoken about the promotion of vapes to teenagers.

Rugby’s “soon to retire from the House” Mark Pawsey asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care what assessment has been made “of the adequacy of the fines for retailers which sell vaping products to young people under the age of eighteen.”

Pawsey is very much in favour of vaping and has spoken at a number of industry events.

Neil O'Brien, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, responded: “No assessment has been made of the adequacy of the fines for retailers which sell vaping products to young people under the age of 18 years old.

However,” he added, “a post implementation review of The Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015 was published in January 2021. The review concluded that the legislation had met its objectives.

“We are fully aware of issues around youth vaping and have recently launched a youth vaping call for evidence. We will assess a range of options based on the evidence provided, including potential future changes to vaping policy and regulation.”

North East Hampshire’s Ranil Jayawardena is hyped up about disposables too. He asked the Secretary of State what steps are being taken to tackle “online content targeted at young people” and assessment has been made of “the adequacy of branding and packaging regulations for e-cigarettes manufacturers in ensuring those goods do not appeal to children”.

Given the frequency of such questions now cropping up, the focus on treating vaping like smoking is a tad concerning.

Neil O'Brien told him: “We have regulations in place to discourage underage vaping. The law protects children through restricting sales of vapes to over 18 year olds only, limiting nicotine content, refill bottle and tank sizes, labelling requirements and through advertising restrictions.

“The Department continues to work with the Advertising Standards Authority to enforce the current set of regulations and to work with platforms to improve their community guidelines.

“However, given the changing circumstances surrounding vapes, the Government has launched a call for evidence on youth vaping to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vape products. This explores issues such as the appearance and packaging of vapes, their marketing, branding and promotion, and the role of social media.”

Note the “…the changing circumstances surrounding vapes…” comment.

Have we suddenly discovered that vapes contain hitherto unknown dangers? No.

Has there been an uptick in teen vaping? Also no [see last week’s ASH survey article].

The changing circumstances are less to do with vapes and more to do with positioning for an impending General Election.

Jayawardena then asked O'Brien what the plans are, “to improve the enforcement on regulations standards for vape pens.”

Neil O'Brien replied: “In April 2023, the Government announced £3 million of funding for a new national illicit vaping enforcement unit to tackle illicit and underage vape sales across the country. This will improve the enforcement of our regulations related to a range of products including vape pens.

“We also launched a call for evidence on youth vaping which issues related to regulatory compliance. Once this closes on 6 June 2023, the Government will assess a range of options based on the evidence provided, including potential future changes to vaping policy and regulation.”

Next up, Dartford’s Gareth Johnson. He pointed to the Government’s press release entitled Crackdown on illegal sale of vapes, asking if the Department for Health has asked “the vaping industry to share intelligence on non-compliant products”.

Neil O'Brien helped everyone’s understanding by telling him, “No assessment has been made.”

He did say something about the “Vaping Enforcement Squad”, but sadly it was nothing to do with it being the title of a ripping new Netflix 6-part drama.

Come on, don’t tell me you wouldn’t watch it – you know you would. Just re-read “Vaping Enforcement Squad” in a deep voice. See? I can taste the car chase scenes already.

Finally, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told ITV's This Morning that promoting vapes to teens is “ridiculous”.

He went on to use a dicey phrase, talking about how he doesn’t want his daughters “seduced by these things” – risking a chat about the recent events This Morning would rather put firmly in the rear-view mirror.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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