Disposable vapes to be banned over concerns of sharp increase in children's use

Rishi Sunak has announced plans to ban disposable vapes in a bid to crack down on their use among children.

The prime minister is also set to unveil new powers to restrict vape flavours as a means to make them less appealing to children.

The Scotland and Wales governments will also ban single-use vapes.

The proposed ban, which will form part of legislation that has to be approved by parliament, comes amid concern at the rise of vaping among children, with teachers reporting pupils showing signs of nicotine dependency in the classroom.

The prime minister will also make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 as part of his pledge to create a smoke-free generation, while vaping alternatives such as nicotine pouches will also be outlawed.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a school on Monday, Mr Sunak said the ban was balanced and the "right" action.

"You talk to any parent or teacher, they'll talk to you about the worrying rise in vaping among children," he said.

"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."

He said it was "important that we maintain vapes for adult smokers who want to stop" but that his proposals were "balanced".

"We have got the balance right, supporting adult smokers to stop smoking… but targeting all the things that make sure children don't have access to vapes."

Smoking remains the UK's single biggest preventable killer, causing around one in four cancer deaths and leading to 80,000 deaths per year, while the health effects of vaping remain unknown.

The new measures follow a government consultation into smoking and vaping which was launched last year, in which nearly 70% of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and the general public indicated their support for further restrictions.

Enforcement agencies, including Border Force and HMRC, are in line to receive £30m in new funding a year to enforce the measures.

The government will also bring in new fines for shops in England and Wales that sell vapes illegally to children, in addition to the maximum £2,500 fine that local councils can already impose.

Further restrictions on vaping have been touted after recent figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled.

Under its plans, the government is expected to use the Environmental Protection Act to ban disposable vapes and hopes to achieve its aim by the end of 2025 at the latest.

The move has been welcomed by health and environmental campaigners. It is estimated that five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week - up from 1.3 million last year.

Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children's Commissioner for England, said parents would be "extremely relieved" at the proposals.

"When I asked children a couple of years ago about all aspects of their health and wellbeing, I was shocked and concerned to hear from children as young as 12 who told me that vaping was normalised among their peers - even on school premises," she said.

"This announcement will help tackle that issue and I know that many children and parents will be extremely relieved."

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at the Green Alliance, said: "This ban can't come soon enough, not only for the health of future generations, but also for the health of the planet.

"This bold move by the government is nothing but good news."

Around 9% of 11 to 15-year-olds are now using vapes and teachers have expressed concern that children are struggling to concentrate in lessons without them.

Data also shows 7.6% of 11 to 17-year-olds now vape regularly or occasionally, up from 4.1% in 2020.

However, former prime minister Liz Truss said Mr Sunak should "reverse" the ban.

"While the state has a duty to protect children from harm, in a free society, adults must be able to make their own choices about their own lives," she said.

"Banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later will create an absurd situation where adults enjoy different rights based on their birthdate.

"A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state."

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The prime minister acknowledged that "some people will disagree with me" but added: "I don't think there's anything unconservative about caring about our children's health.

"But on smoking, there's been a long tradition in parliament of these being free votes, which aren't party political, people will have their own held views on that, that's the same as it's been in the past.

"So I respect that some people will disagree with me on this but… I think this is the right long-term thing for our country."

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said: "What has taken the government so long? Labour put forward measures to tackle vapes being aimed at children more than two years ago, but these were blocked by the Conservatives.

"In the meantime, the numbers of young people vaping have soared."