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In our latest nail-biting parliamentary coverage, this week we hear from Peter Gibson – who is in a right tizzy about illegal sales and products blighting the countryside

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In the knowledge that last week’s coverage of Parliament was so thrilling, we would’ve impressed upon Peter Gibson to up his game. Unfortunately, we were unable to message the Darlington Conservative, so you are going to have to make do with his simple questions to ministers.

Peter Gibson posed his first question to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. He wanted to know if a Minister from the Department would be prepared to visit Darlington. He said it was to talk to the Police and Trading Standards about the joint steps they are taking to help tackle the sale of illegal vapes and illicit tobacco – but we all know it was so he could get his name in the Darlington & Stockton Times because he’s predicted to lose the Darlington seat.

Andrea Leadsom, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary and also predicted seat loser, told him: “Ministers in the department are always happy to consider meetings and visits to understand the impact of their policy areas, and we recommend reaching out to Ministers’ offices directly.

“A strong approach to enforcement is vital if the smokefree generation policy is to have real impact. My Rt hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care recently visited a cargo warehouse at Heathrow Airport with Hillingdon Trading Standards to see first-hand the work they are doing to seize illicit vapes at the border and prevent these products from being sold in the United Kingdom.

“Underage and illicit sales of tobacco products, and more recently vaping products, is undermining the work the Government is doing to regulate the industry and protect public health. It also deprives the UK of vital money that could be used to fund essential public services, instead, putting it in the hands of criminals.

“This is why alongside the measures in the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, we are supporting enforcement agencies with up to £30 million a year, to scale up their existing activities. This increased investment will help to stamp out criminal activity by boosting enforcement capacity and help local trading standards tackle underage sales at a local level. Of this funding, over £100 million over five years will support HM Revenue and Custom’s and Border Force’s new illicit tobacco strategy. As is the case with existing age of sale legislation, breaches of the new law will primarily be dealt with by local authority trading standards, rather than by local police forces.”

We covered how disingenuous the funding claims are – amounting to less than £30,000 per Trading Standards department, and this is if they get everything left over from the Border Force wastage…which they won’t.

The nonsense that banning things won’t drive a thriving black market is for the birds, we have the evidence of illicit substances and the tobacco trade as obvious examples.

Peter Gibson continued by asking a question to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). He wondered what the assessment DEFRA has made of the challenges faced by local authorities to properly dispose of disposable vapes.

Robbie Moore, DEFRA Parliamentary Under-Secretary, responded: “Earlier this year, Defra published a report outlining the environmental concerns of disposable vapes. These products are an inefficient use of resources, are frequently disposed of incorrectly, can be harmful when littered and are difficult and costly to recycle. That is why on 29 January the Government confirmed that we would introduce a ban on single-use vapes. Draft regulations for the ban were published on 11 March with a proposed coming into force date of 1 April 2025 pending parliamentary procedures.”

No doubt Gibson will tell the Darlington & Stockton Times that he is on top of the environmental scourge of disposable vapes. But what did Moore say? Did he respond to the question? No. The government may be happy to talk tough about “the challenges faced by local authorities to properly dispose of disposable vapes”, but it doesn’t want to address the subject at any meaningful level – meaning that it won’t have any plans in place to deal with the processing of black market products once the ban has been enacted.

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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