Shropshire Star

Shropshire shop owner says new Government action tackling child vaping doesn't go far enough

The owner of a vape shop has said a new Government initiative to stop retailers giving free samples to children is a "good move", but not enough to make a real impact on the practice.

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Thomas Peach, owner of Sluice Juice in Newport

Tom Peach, who runs Sluice Juice in Newport, says he is still seeing a stream of children coming into his store to buy disposable e-cigarettes, after he spoke to the Shropshire Star in March about the issue.

NHS figures for 2021 showed that nine per cent of 11- to 15-year-old children used e-cigarettes, up from six per cent in 2018. The same study showed 18 per cent of 15-year-olds had taken up the habit.

Now, the Government has announced it will close the "loophole" that allows retailers to give free samples of vapes to children.

There will also be a review into the rules around the sale of "nicotine-free" products to under-18s, as well as fines for shops selling illicit vapes and increased education in schools.

While Tom believes the closure of the loophole is a step in the right direction, he said the Government should consider banning disposable vapes outright.

"What they are doing now is trying to close the loophole, which is all good and well and any move forward is a good move," Tom said.

"But when I have contacted Newport SNT and West Mercia Police to report kids vaping, they say are not allowed to confiscate vapes from kids.

"They can take alcohol and cigarettes from kids, but they can't take vapes, so would that not be a better law? Surely that's a bit more important at the moment.

"It's a drop in the ocean really, there's so many important things out there in terms of free vaping, so they are targeting the wrong thing. Just ban them."

Recent figures also showed that the majority of vapers are using the disposable products, with 52.8 per cent of vapers using them in 2022, compared with 7.8 per cent in 2021.

In a recent Action on Smoking and Health Smokefree GB Youth Survey 2023 of 11 to 17 year olds, two out of five young people said they smoke vapes “just to give it a try” and about one in five because “other people use them so I join in”.

Tom went on to say that it's still a prevalent issue and that teenagers are starting to get "more sneaky" about how to acquire disposable vapes.

"I have got a camera outside my shop, so it's caught every single one," Tom added, "but I have parents coming in asking me if it's their child doing it.

"It's only disposables, it wasn't a massive thing before disposables because they weren't so cheap to get hold of."

Tom has advocated for increased education in schools to warn children about the dangers, as well as enforcing big fines on businesses if they sell vapes to under-18s.

"Enforcement could be big fines on businesses or a licence scheme which could be implemented so your licence could be taken off you – and that's massive and no one would be wanting to lose that.

"And education is massively important from a young age to tell them the real dangers of it and what it's really for."

Tom champions quitting smoking and says vaping as a way to reduce cigarette consumption can be an "amazing thing", but does not encourage non-smokers to take it up.

Discussion of the health risks of vaping will be included in Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) lessons, as part of the Government’s ongoing review of RSHE, in order to further discourage children from taking up vaping.

The new plans follow the announcement last month of £3 million of funding which has been provided to create a specialised ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’ to implement the rules on vaping and tackle illicit vapes and underage sales.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I am deeply concerned about the sharp rise in kids vaping and shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of school children.

“Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by £3 million – is on the case, but clearly there is more to do. That is why I am taking further action today to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products.