The British government is cracking down on a loophole that allows retailers to give free vape samples to kids, reports Reuters.
“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,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. “The marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children is completely unacceptable.”
“We should continue to encourage smokers to swap to vaping as the lesser risk whilst preventing the marketing and sale of vapes to children,” England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said.
The government plans to review the rules on issuing fines to shops that sell vapes to those under the age of 18 in order to more easily allow local authorities to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices.
The U.K. Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) expressed support for the government’s decision.
“The UKVIA fully supports the government’s actions to protect minors and urges the Prime Minister to ensure that this tough stance is followed up with equally tough action,” said John Dunne, director general of the UKVIA, in a statement. “For too long, some rogue firms have felt they had free reign to sell a product designed to help adult smokers quit to youngsters because they realized that the chances of getting caught were slim at best.
“Even if they get caught, the fines—which have been as low as just £26—are no deterrent, so we welcome the review into fines and repeat our calls that they should be up to £10,000 per instance and be backed up by a retail licensing scheme, which would include age verification requirements and robust enforcement by Trading Standards departments up and down the country.
“Sadly, many Trading Standards departments are not resourced anywhere near enough to clamp down on the illicit and illegal vape sales, and this is an issue that the government should now look at very seriously indeed.
“Data in the possession of the UKVIA shows that very few prosecutions have been made for underage or illicit sales across the country, and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” Dunne said. “Unless unscrupulous traders know that selling vapes to children is an endeavor that would be financially ruinous to them, then they will continue to do so.”
“We totally agree that there can be no justification in giving free vape samples to children—whether or not they contain nicotine—but any new measures the government does impose in this area must not impact on the tremendous work being done by stop smoking centers around the country.”