Cracking down on illegal sales to young people

The UK government is investing £3 million to reduce the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to minors. This comes after Health Minister Neil O'Brien recognised that more and more young people are getting hold of disposable vapes, despite clear age limits.
"We will set up a special unit, which will control, map and act against illegal sales both in physical stores and online on a national level" says Mr O'Brien.

The proportion of people under 18 using e-cigarettes in the UK is increasing for the first time since 2018. From 6 per cent to 9 per cent. Of the young people who reported using e-cigarettes, 52 per cent had used disposable vapes, popular models that should be thrown away once used. Sales of disposable models have increased overall in all countries. Larger companies, such as China's Elf Bar and British American Tobacco (Vuse Go), launched their products widely. Disposable vapes can now be bought outside traditional vape shops, which has led to a grey market where many smaller convenience stores do not comply with the law.

"Those shops whose business is based on getting young people hooked on nicotine should know that we are targeting them. We will close down all such businesses," said the UK's health minister. Neil O'Brien at a press conference.

Smoking has decreased

At the same time, he emphasises the importance of protecting the legal sale of e-cigarettes. The UK government is actively encouraging smokers to switch their nicotine source from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. In ten years, smoking has fallen from 20 to 13 per cent among the population. 

"E-cigarettes contribute to between 50,000 and 70,000 fewer smokers annually in England. We need to make even better use of this," says Mr Perez. Neil O'Brien.

Compare with medicines

According to Mr O'Brien, it is therefore important that regulated e-cigarettes are openly available.

"Vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking. We also see clear evidence that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool, better than nicotine gum and patches, without being more harmful. This is particularly true when they are used in combination with counselling and behavioural support," says Neil O'Brien.

To stop illegal sales

As part of the effort to reduce illegal sales, the government is also inviting businesses and the public to participate in an open consultation on vaping. The aim is to find out how young people get hold of the products and how the authorities can act to prevent increasing uptake.

"We will first make sure that the rules that are already in place are followed and work." Says Mr O'Brien. "At the same time, we want to work with companies to make sure that young people cannot access the products and the products that are on the market are labelled and controlled according to the standards we have today."

Minister for Health Neil O'Brien - Press conference (video):

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