Bold new measures to combat rising levels of youth vaping expected to be announced

  • A new ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’ – backed by £3 million of government funding – to be formed to enforce rules on vaping and tackle illegal sales of vapes to under-18s
  • Call for Evidence also launched to identify opportunities to stop children vaping

The government is expected to unveil tough new measures to combat the illegal sale of vapes to under-18s as part of its plans to reduce smoking and tackle youth vaping.

In his speech at Policy Exchange on Tuesday 11 April, Health Minister Neil O’Brien is expected to announce a new ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’ – backed by £3 million of government funding – to enforce the rules on vaping and tackle illicit vapes and underage sales.

Working across the country, the enforcement squad led by Trading Standards will share knowledge and intelligence across regional networks and local authorities.

It will undertake specific projects such as test purchasing in convenience stores and vape shops. It will also produce guidance to help build regulatory compliance, and will have the power to remove illegal products from shops and at our borders.

The minister is also expected to announce the launch of a Call for Evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vapes, while ensuring they remain available as a quit aid for adult smokers.

It will explore topical issues such as the marketing and promotion of vapes and the environmental impact of disposable products.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said:

Smoking kills, so our priority is to prevent people smoking, and support them to quit. We remain committed to our ambition to be smokefree by 2030.

However, 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 vaping products.

The new illicit vapes enforcement squad will work across the country and clamp down on those businesses who sell vapes to children – which is illegal – and get them hooked on nicotine. Our Call for Evidence will also allow us to get a firm understanding of the steps we can take to reduce the number of children accessing and using vapes.

Smoking prevalence in England in 2021 was 13.0%, the lowest on record, thanks to measures such as doubling duty on cigarettes since 2010 and continued funding to local stop smoking services. In 2021-22, £68 million of funding from the public health grant was spent on stop smoking services by local authorities, and nearly 100,000 people quit with the support of a stop smoking service.

In addition, £35 million was committed to the NHS last year so that all smokers admitted to hospital will be offered NHS-funded tobacco treatment services.

Published 9 April 2023