Although heralded as a healthier alternative for those wishing to stop smoking, the vaping industry has actively targeted children through the use of marketing techniques and products that are specifically aimed at under 18s. Now the UK government has issued proposals to introduce new regulations to prevent the marketing of vaping products to those under the age of 18.
On 4 October 2023, the government published its plans for a consultation relating to proposed new regulations governing the sale and marketing of vaping products. The primary objective of such regulations is to prevent the marketing of vaping devices to those under the age of 18.
The government's decision was informed by the recent findings from its call for evidence on youth vaping, which revealed that the marketing strategies for vaping products, such as use of colour and flavours, have made vaping much more appealing to children.
The government's proposed measures include:
1. Regulating the branding, packaging, and flavours of vaping products with the aim of diminishing their attractiveness to children. Drawing parallels with the success of prohibiting tobacco branding in reducing the appeal of smoking to minors, the government aims to employ similar strategies in the vaping industry.
2. Enforcing regulations on point-of-sale displays to ensure that vaping products are kept out of the reach of children. The government believes that vapes should not be prominently displayed in aisles, near confectionery items, or on easily accessible shelves.
3. Implementing restrictions on the sale of disposable vapes through the powers vested in section 140 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. On the basis that disposable vapes are more enticing to children, the government wishes to curb the proliferation of such devices by reference to their detrimental impact on the environment, citing the failure of manufacturers and retailers to comply with legal obligations related to the recycling of unwanted vaping devices.
4. Prohibiting the sale of non-nicotine vapes to children and preventing the distribution of free samples of vaping products to children. Currently, there are no age restrictions on the sale of non-nicotine vapes, nor are there any limitations on the distribution of free vaping samples.
There is a clear desire for increased restrictions on vaping advertising, especially on social media platforms and through influencers. In its response, the government acknowledges these concerns but remains aware of the industry's need to continue marketing vaping products to adult smokers.
These proposed measures are part of the government's broader policy paper aimed at creating a "smoke-free generation." A central element of this policy is the introduction of new legislation that would make it an offence to sell tobacco products to individuals born on or after 1 January 2009, or to purchase tobacco products on behalf of someone born after that date. The intended outcome of this law is to prevent individuals aged 14 or younger in 2023 from ever legally purchasing tobacco products. The government plans to raise the smoking age incrementally by one year every year until it encompasses the entire population.
The government intends to launch a consultation in late October 2023 to further explore this policy, including the measures designed to curb the rise of youth vaping. They also plan to introduce legislation that would empower local authorities to impose on-the-spot fines on retailers for underage sales of tobacco products and vaping devices, as well as explore additional measures to enhance online age verification processes.
In the absence of any self-regulation from the vaping industry itself, the proposed restrictions are likely to come into effect in the near future and all those involved in the advertising of vaping devices should be ready for the changes.
If you require any further information in relation to this area please do not hesitate to contact David Bond.
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