While e-cigarettes are not risk free, the Government is actively supportive of the use of e-cigarettes as a means to help people 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 people 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.
I fully understand concerns by parents about underage sales of vapes, and it is promising to see the Government announce several steps recently to tackle this issue. A new “illicit vapes enforcement squad” – led by Trading Standards and backed by £3 million of Government funding – will help to enforce the rules on vaping and tackle illicit vapes and underage sales.
The enforcement squad will undertake specific projects like test purchasing in convenience stores and vape shops, and it will have the power to remove illegal products from shops and at our borders. A call for evidence has also been launched to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vapes. This will also seek views on the marketing and promotion of vapes and the role of social media.
Ministers are also working closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to consider the environmental impact of disposable vapes, which have increased in popularity among young people over the last couple of years.
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 comments on vaping. In her statement to the virtual Ninth WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Minister for Vaccines and Public Health Maggie Throup reaffirmed the UK's commitment to having comprehensive tobacco control policies, including a strong regulatory framework for e-cigarettes. I am told that more people attended the meeting than ever before and I am encouraged that the UK was able to use this global platform to highlight the opportunities presented by e-cigarettes as a tool to help people to quit.
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.
It is illegal to sell vapes to all those under 18 year old and I support the work of enforcement agencies to ensure these regulations are being enforced in England.
Restrictions on the advertising, packaging and labelling of e-cigarettes, along with limits on nicotine content the prohibition of sales to under 18s have all had an impact in minimising their use.
I completely 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.