Disposable vapes that do not meet UK standards should be banned
We are caught in a paradox.
On one hand, vaping has emerged as a less harmful alternative to traditional smoking, promising a way out for millions of smokers who have decided to switch.
On the other, a dangerous trend has taken hold. The number of children using e-cigarettes is doubling each year, and those hospitalised due to vaping has quadrupled in just two years.
Recent data shows highlights this concern, revealing a 50% increase in experimental vaping among 11 to 17-year-olds within just a year.
Clearly, our current countermeasures are failing.
We must act swiftly and decisively to halt this crisis from escalating further.
Central to this issue is the prevalence of low-quality disposable vapes, often imported cheaply from abroad with inadequate quality checks. These products, easily accessible and alluringly cheap, pose a significant threat to our youth. In Carlisle, like in every town across Britain, brightly coloured vapes are being advertised in what feels like every other shop.
A rigorous licensing scheme should be enforced to ensure that only the highest quality vaping products are available on the market, thereby safeguarding not only our youth but also smokers who are looking for safer alternatives.
To this end, we can look north for a solution. For the past five years, Scotland has mandated that every business selling both tobacco and Nicotine products must register on a central data base.
This regulation not only provides a tool for trading standards to better enforce age restriction laws but also ensures that retailers adhere to their responsibilities. Crucially, it offers consumers the reassurance they need - that they are choosing safer products from registered, responsible retailers.
Furthermore, we cannot ignore the influence of child-friendly flavours. Many vapes are clearly not intended for the typical adult smoker looking to quit traditional cigarettes. We must introduce a ban on these flavours that are expressly designed to appeal to young people. Vaping is a tool to help get adults off cigarettes, not a tool to attract and addict a new younger audience.
Strengthening online regulations is an imperative part of this battle.
The ease and anonymity of online shopping have made it all too simple for underaged users to access these harmful products.
We need to introduce rigorous age verification methods on all online platforms selling vaping products. Additionally, we need to enforce penalties for websites deliberately trying to lure in young users with misleading information or appealing marketing. Clear warnings need to be displayed on such sites, informing users that these products are potentially dangerous, as they do not meet the UKs health and safety standards.
Even as we grapple with the growing youth vaping crisis, it is important to remember the potential benefits vaping presents for adult smokers. While we strive to protect our youth, we must ensure that smokers have access to safer alternatives. It is a delicate balance to strike, but it is one we must navigate with care and urgency.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has described 'youth vaping' as an epidemic among children. This should serve as a wake-up call. We cannot afford to neglect the potential long-term effects of vaping, especially among our younger population.
All vapers must have confidence that what they use is as safe as it can be. If a product cannot reach the high standards that the UK demands, that product should not be allowed to reach consumers.
We are in the midst of a crisis, and our response will determine the health of future generations. Now, more than ever, we need proportionate regulations, tighter controls on those who endanger our youth, and an unwavering commitment to act.
We owe it to our children and to our nation to tackle this crisis head-on. We must act now, and we must act decisively.
John Stevenson is Chairman of the Northern Research Group
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