While e-cigarettes are not risk free, the Government is actively supportive of the use of e-cigarettes as a means to help adults stop smoking and contribute towards the goal of a smoke free England by 2030.
Some of the highest success rates of those trying to stop smoking are among adults using an e-cigarette, with evidence suggesting that an additional 70,000 people stop smoking every year as a result of using these devices. An estimated 2.4 million vapers are former smokers, and Vaping Awareness Month - VApril - provides an opportunity to highlight the potential health benefits of making the switch.
However, it is deeply worrying that the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past three years, with 20.5 per cent of children having tried vaping in 2023. The advice from the Chief Medical Officer is clear: young people and those who have never smoked should not vape. I fully understand concerns by parents about underage sales of vapes and the Government is actively considering proposals to tackle this issue. These proposals include restricting flavours, regulating point of sale displays, regulating packaging and considering restrictions on the sale of disposable vapes.
Working together with the devolved administrations, the Government will ensure a consistent approach to tackle the harms caused by youth vaping across the UK. A consultation is currently taking place to gather views on several measures to tackle youth vaping. You can respond to the consultation through this link: https://consultations.dhsc.gov.uk/en/65201ed1f3410a69990d3081
In the meantime, a new “illicit vapes enforcement squad” – led by Trading Standards – is working to enforce the rules on vaping and tackle illicit vapes and underage sales. The enforcement squad the power to remove illegal products from shops and at our borders.
I believe that our departure from the EU provides an important opportunity for the UK to diverge from - and improve on - the EU regulations on vaping. As such, I am calling on the Department of Health and Social Care to set out a plan to ensure that we can strengthen the UK's role as a world leader in tobacco harm reduction.
I note the concerns about the World Health Organisation's proposals for the Conference of the Parties Tenth Meeting (COP10).
The Government has regularly set out its position on vaping at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and will do so at the next conference in Panama in November 2023. The delegation will not agree to any decisions which would impact on the UK's ability to make regulated vapes available for adult smokers who wish to quit smoking. The latest ‘Vaping in England’ report published last year, which includes an array of evidence produced by the United Kingdom academic community, is publicly available online and has been shared with the World Health Organization Global Tobacco Regulators Forum.
As with previous events at the Conference of the Parties, the Government will use the opportunity to speak about the UK’s progress on the implementation of tobacco control policies. This will include the role of nicotine replacement therapy and vapes in supporting people to quit all forms of tobacco. All the COP papers and decisions during the COP are available through the following link: https://fctc.who.int/who-fctc/governance/conference-of-the-parties/tenth-session-of-the-conference-of-the-parties
There is insufficient evidence to justify the prohibition of e-cigarettes, with the risk to the health of bystanders from e-cigarette vapour being low. In addition, there is no evidence of comparable harm from exposure to e-cigarettes compared to tobacco, so they are not covered by the legislation banning smoking in enclosed public spaces.
I appreciate that the use of e-cigarettes in public places can be a nuisance. That is why guidance has been produced for employers and organisations looking to introduce policies around e-cigarettes and vaping in public. This guidance stipulates a number of considerations which it recommends be taken into account by employers and organisations when forming their policy on e-cigarettes. These include the fact that vaping can be a nuisance or distraction for people nearby, and that people with asthma and other respiratory conditions can be sensitive to a range of environmental irritants such as e-cigarette vapour.