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The UK will ban disposable vapes and curb candy-flavored e-cigarettes that attract children under 18

By SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press
Published: January 29, 2024, 9:14am

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government will ban the sale of disposable vapes and limit their cornucopia of flavors to prevent children from becoming addicted to nicotine, officials said Monday. It also plans to stick to a contentious proposal to ban today’s young people from ever buying cigarettes.

It is currently illegal to sell vapes or tobacco to children under 18 in the U.K., but officials say that youth vaping has tripled in the past three years, and that cheap, colorful disposable vapes in flavors like bubblegum and candy floss are a “key driver.”

“You talk to any parent or teacher, they’ll talk to you about the worrying rise in vaping among children,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters. “Children shouldn’t be vaping, we don’t want them to get addicted. We still don’t understand the full long-term health impacts of vaping. So it is right we take strong action to stamp this out.”

Disposable vapes, or e-cigarettes, are behind an alarming rise in vaping among children under 18, Sunak said, with 9% of 11 to 15-year-olds now using vapes, according to figures provided by the government.

The nicotine contained within them can be highly addictive, officials said. Withdrawal sometimes causes anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches.

The government said it will introduce new powers — expected to come into effect next year — to restrict flavors that are “specifically marketed at children,” and ensure that manufacturers use plainer packaging and shops move the products out of sight of children. New fines will also be introduced for shops that sell vapes illegally to children.

Adults who wanted to use vapes as a tool to quit smoking would still be able to access vape kits, Sunak said.

Some experts say that the proposed ban needs to be carefully considered so that it doesn’t encourage people to turn to cigarettes.

“This ban may discourage use of e-cigarettes among people trying to quit smoking and induce relapse among those who have already used disposables to quit,” said Jamie Brown, director of the tobacco and alcohol research group at University College London. “Cigarettes are far more harmful to our health and are not currently banned for adults.”

Sunak’s government also said it will push on with a plan announced last year to gradually raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes, so that no one born after Jan. 1, 2009 can ever legally buy them.

Health experts like Brown welcomed the idea as potentially the most important public health intervention for a generation. However, it outraged some members of the Conservative Party who viewed it as excessive state intervention.

The plan was modeled on a proposal in New Zealand that was scrapped late last year after a change of government in that country.

The number of people in the U.K. who smoke has declined by two-thirds since the 1970s, but some 6.4 million people, or about 13% of the population, still smoke, according to official figures.

Other countries have proposed similar bans on disposable vapes. Last month, France’s National Assembly unanimously approved a bill to ban single-use, disposable electronic cigarettes to protect young people attracted by their flavors.

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