ASH Recommendations On UK Youth Vaping
ASH Response to vaping consultation calls on government to urgently implement four high impact interventions
6th June 2023
ASH response to vaping consultation calls on government to urgently implement four high impact interventions
1.Put a specific tax on disposable vapes of £5
2.Reinstate funding for sustained anti-smoking campaigns promoting vaping as the most effective quitting aid available for adult smokers
3.Prohibit instore promotion of e-cigarettes with exemptions for age restricted specialist vape shops
4.Prohibit branding with appeal to children
Today ASH publishes its priority recommendations to government which are designed to reduce the affordability, accessibility, appeal and advertising of vaping to children.
ASH recommendations are based on the most up to date evidence including a detailed analysis of the trends demonstrated by its Smokefree GB youth surveys. The 2023 survey was carried out from 21st March to 18th April and provides the most recent and most comprehensive picture of underage vaping in Britain.
ASH also calls on the government not to forget its overarching ambition to deliver a Smokefree 2030. The evidence from a survey of 35 European countries suggests that the tougher tobacco regulations are, the lower the youth vaping rates.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, ASH said:
“ASH called for tougher regulations after our survey last year showed disposables had become the vape of choice for children and underage vaping was on the up, but we were ignored. Now that the Prime Minister is convinced, perhaps action will finally be taken. Children are highly price sensitive so top of our list is to make disposable vapes less affordable by adding a £5 excise tax, which could be achieved immediately with a Finance Bill. This would not only increase the price but also make their distribution subject to much more stringent controls, making it easier to prevent illicit and underage sales.”
The ASH survey shows that, just as in 2022, the most popular vape for children is disposables, and the most popular brand Elf Bar. In March Elf Bars and other leading brands could be bought for £4.99, already pocket money prices, but the week before the consultation closed they were available for £2.99. After adding a £5 specific tax the price of disposable vapes will be similar to equivalent rechargeable, reusable products, and while still being significantly lower than a pack of cigarettes or rolling tobacco.
Professor Jamie Brown, Director of University College London’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, said:
“Addressing the availability of cheap and illicit disposable vapes is a vital first step, but this must be backed up by a comprehensive regulatory approach which reduces not just affordability but also access, appeal and advertising of vapes to children. This approach should be balanced by also promoting vaping to adults as the most effective quitting aid available in the UK. Our surveys, just like those of ASH, find large numbers of adult smokers believe, wrongly, that vaping is just as bad if not worse than smoking. Well funded anti-smoking campaigns are needed to address these misconceptions if the government is to maximise the impact of its “Swap to Stop” offer on population smoking rates.”
ASH does not support a complete ban on disposable vapes at this time, as it will drive the illicit market thereby making it harder not easier to ensure products are recycled. And while ASH wants to drive down overall consumption of disposable vapes, among adults as well as children, it recognises that disposable vapes may have a role to play for some groups of particularly disadvantaged smokers.
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh said
“Fresh is the regional tobacco control programme for the North East where we have seen some of the highest rates of death and disease from smoking in the country. We work closely with NHS trusts across our region including mental health trusts and we know there is concern about any proposals to ban disposable vapes.
“That is primarily because disposable vapes are easy to use and don’t require refilling and recharging, making them a useful aid to quitting for smokers especially those with learning disabilities. For the same reasons disposable vapes are popular with inpatients with Serious Mental Illness (SMI), particularly when they first have to adjust to being unable to smoke when admitted to hospital. People with mental health conditions have high rates of smoking and tend to be more addicted making it harder to quit and more likely they’ll die from smoking, so it is vital we do all we can to help them stop, and single use disposable vapes have a role to play.”
Dr Ruth Sharrock, Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency, North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care Board. said
“Removing disposable vapes from our toolkit would make it harder to support our most vulnerable smokers. Older smokers, people with learning disabilities and others can find it hard to use refillable products straight away. The immediacy of a disposable vape makes such a difference. It is as if we are taking a cigarette out of their hand and replacing it with a vastly safer product.”
The recommendations are in the wider context of the much greater harms of tobacco, which kills up to two thirds of long term smokers. ASH is reiterating calls for a fully funded tobacco control plan for England, including a levy on the tobacco industry forcing them to pay for the damage they cause.
Professor Nick Hopkinson, Respiratory Physician and Chair of ASH said,
“Smoking remains the biggest health problem for adults and children, and the rate of decline in adult smoking prevalence stagnated during the Covid-19 pandemic. The recent announcements provide less than a quarter of the funding needed to put us on track to a smokefree 2030. As well as greater regulation of vaping, we urgently need the bold, new tobacco control measures recommended by the APPG on Smoking and Health and the Khan review, such as increases in the age of sale and a polluter pays levy to fund investment in stop smoking services, mass media campaigns and regional tobacco control.”
Like ASH, trading standards urge that regulation of tobacco, the most harmful product, is also enhanced so that it doesn’t become less stringent than for vapes.
Kate Pike, Regional Co-ordinator, Trading Standards North West and Lead Officer for Vaping for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute said:
“The extra funding for enforcement to prevent underage sales of vapes is welcome, but we also need more powers to turn off the tap of illegal disposable vapes flooding in across our borders. Applying excise tax to disposable vapes could give Border Force and HMRC more powers to stop illegal products being imported. Powers to impose enhanced on the spot fines would be a step in the right direction, but retailers have told me that the profits to be made from selling illegal vapes, and illegal tobacco too, are so large, that fines have little impact. What we really need is a requirement for all tobacco and vape retailers to be licensed, and powers to remove licences from retailers found guilty of underage and/or illicit sales.”
Notes to the Editor
Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive, Hazel Cheeseman Deputy Chief Executive, and Professor Nick Hopkinson, Professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London and Chair of ASH are available for media interviews contact firstname.lastname@example.org