Politics & Campaigns


Work has resumed at Westminster and tobacco harm reduction conversations are taking place again

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Politics has resumed at the Palace of Westminster despite many government ministers wishing it hadn’t. As we enter the extended home straight leading up to the next general election, some have turned their minds back to protecting the health of the nation and begun discussing vaping and tobacco harm reduction once more.

Alexander Stafford, Conservative MP for Rother Valley, asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care whether he has had recent discussions with Cabinet colleagues on taking steps to limit the access of vapes to children.

Neil O'Brien, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, spoke on behalf of the Department. He said: “The Government recently ran a call for evidence on youth vaping which closed on 6 June 2023. This will identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products and explore where the Government can go further. We will respond later this year.”

The subject of teen vaping was also on the mind of Kirsten Oswald, the Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Women and Equalities. She wanted to know if the Secretary of State has made or will make an estimate of the number and proportion of people under the age of 18 who vape.

Neil O'Brien replied: “Data on vaping is available at England level for those aged 11 to 15 through the 'NHS Smoking, Drinking and Drug use among Young People in England' publication. Current vaping prevalence among those aged 11 to 15 was 9% in 2021. ASH survey data on youth vaping from 2023 shows a similar trend, with 7.6% of children aged 11 to 17 currently vaping.”

Kirsten Oswald followed this up with a volley of questions:

  • Whether it is the Department's policy to reduce the availability of disposable vapes
  • Whether it is the Secretary of State’s policy to add health warnings to disposable vapes.
  • Whether it is the Secretary of State’s policy to restrict the advertising of disposable vaping products.
  • Whether it is the Secretary of State’s policy to require outlets selling vaping products to cover them up from public view.

Neil O'Brien told her: “Nicotine vapes, including disposables, are regulated through the Tobacco and Related Product Regulations 2016. These regulations protect children through restricting the sale of vapes to only people over the age of 18, limiting nicotine content, refill bottle and tank sizes, labelling requirements and through advertising restrictions.

“Every nicotine vape packet contains a health warning. Vapes can also only be advertised in certain media and with certain restrictions. More information on these restrictions is available at the following link: https://www.asa.org.uk/type/non_broadcast/code_section/22.html

“While vaping is a preferable alternative to smoking for adults, we are concerned about the rise in youth vaping, particularly the increasing use of disposable vapes and the unknown long-term harms. Given the recent increases, the Government recently ran a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products.

“The Government is currently considering a range of options based on the evidence provided, including potential changes to vaping policy and regulation. We intend to respond to the call for evidence in the coming weeks.”

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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