Labour’s Mary Glindon asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care a stream of questions:
- What assessment has been made of the potential merits of the industry proposal to introduce fines of £10,000 to retailers found selling e-cigarettes to children and other alternative strategies to reduce youth access to single use e-cigarettes?
- What assessment has been made of how many vapers will switch to cigarettes if the sale of single-use e-cigarettes is banned?
- Has the Department had discussions with Trading Standards and other bodies on the practicalities of implementing a ban on single-use e-cigarettes?
- What assessment has been made of the potential health and economic impact of banning the sale of single-use e-cigarettes on ex-smokers with low incomes?
- Does the Department plan to publish the consultation on banning the sale of single-use e-cigarettes?
A roundly decent set of questions that any half competent administration focussing on long-term planning would have no problem providing answers for.
Neil O’Brien, the Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, told her: “No assessment has been made of the proposal to introduce fines of £10,000 to retailers found selling vapes.”
Would it surprise anyone to discover he provided no response to any of Glindon’s other questions other than ‘we will announce something at some point in the future’?
Shadow DUP Spokesperson Gregory Campbell asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care what steps the Department is taking to monitor the potential health implications of increases in the number of young people using vapes.
Neil O'Brien was able to be more forthcoming.
“We are concerned about the rise in the number of young people using vapes,” he said. “There is well established concern about the addictive harms and risks from vaping, specifically associated with children and young people. Nicotine is highly addictive and there are unanswered questions on the effects of longer-term use.”
Proudly, he repeated that the Government recently ran a call for evidence on youth vaping.
“This will identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products and explore where the government can go further to protect children from the harms of vaping. We will respond to the call for evidence in due course.”
What he didn’t dwell on was the fact that the call for evidence closed almost five months ago and the Department for Health and Social Care is still to present the findings to the House. While the country needs an HS2 of a health department, we seem to be languishing with something more akin to the time Thomas the Tank Engine’s friend Henry got bricked up in a tunnel.
Finally, Catherine West, the Labour Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) what steps are being undertaken to increase public awareness of the correct way to recycle disposable vapes.
Under-Secretary Rebecca Pow expressed the Government’s “concern” about the environmental impacts of disposable vapes.
Phew! That’s sorted that thorny issue then.
Like Neil O'Brien, Pow is dithering to produce a response from the call for evidence on vaping which closed in June.
Stating the obvious, she added: “All electrical waste should be properly disposed and recycled to protect our environment. This includes disposable vapes.”
Retailers that sell over £100,000 of electrical equipment per year are obliged to provide in-store takeback of electrical items, including vapes, under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations. Smaller businesses can choose to contribute funds to the distributor takeback scheme instead to ensure vapes are recycled correctly. All vapes that are deposited at household waste and recycling centres will be collected and treated and the costs of doing this will be met by vape producers.
“Consumers that wish to dispose of their old vapes should either take them to their local authority household waste recycling centre or to a retailer who sells vapes, if they offer in-store take-back, for onward treatment,” Pow said.
Punting the issue even further down the road, she concluded: “Our Environmental Improvement Plan sets out our plan to review rules for waste electricals this year. As part of this, we will consider what changes in legislation are needed to make it simpler for householders to recycle their unwanted electricals, including vapes.”