UK Vaping Laws: Banning Free Vape Samples for Minors
A new wave of concern is sweeping across the UK, centred around the rapid increase in minors engaging in vaping. The government’s worry is grounded in the unsettling statistics from the NHS, indicating that e-cigarette usage among 11 to 15-year-olds rose from 6% in 2018 to 9% in 2021. Understandably, this rise in youth vaping has sparked a drive for stricter regulations.
Free Vape Samples for Minors
To curtail this concerning trend, the UK government has decided to act. Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister, voiced his concern over the issue on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. The government is planning to close a loophole that currently allows retailers to give free vape samples to children, which, quite frankly, is a disturbing thought.
Additionally, the government is exploring the possibility of banning the sale of “nicotine-free” vapes to minors. This proposal stems from the suspicion that vaping companies are exploiting these products to target children with colourful and cheap vape offerings.
The government’s action doesn’t stop there. The enforcement of penalties on retailers who illegally sell vapes to children is under review. The government is considering empowering local trading standards officials with the ability to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices. This step, hopefully, will ensure retailers abide by the regulations and thereby, safeguard children from undue exposure to vapes.
What is Vaping?
To understand the regulations better, we need to know what vaping is. Vaping involves using a device called a vaporiser, or vape for short, which heats a liquid to produce vapour that users inhale. This liquid, known as e-liquid or vape juice, typically contains nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals.
A vape comprises a battery, a heating element, a cartridge or tank holding the e-liquid, and a mouthpiece. When the user activates the device, the heating element turns the e-liquid into vapour, which the user inhales.
Current UK Laws on Vaping
While the law around vaping in the UK may seem a tad ambiguous, there are indeed some concrete regulations. First and foremost, you must be at least 18 to purchase and use a vape. However, nicotine-free vapes, despite their potential risks, can be sold to individuals under 18.
Also, vape cartridges are subject to specific requirements. For instance, they cannot hold more than 2 millilitres of liquid, and the nicotine content must not exceed 20 milligrams per millilitre.
With the rising concern over the targeting of children by vape firms, the government plans to ban retailers from distributing “nicotine-free” vapes to under-18s. The goal is to crack down on the “unacceptable” marketing of these products to minors.
Vaping Laws in UK
Vaping in Public
Vaping is not prohibited across the UK as it stands. Indeed, there are no nationwide legal restrictions or laws on vaping in public areas. The use of vaping devices indoors is largely permitted, unless a specific establishment or public area has set a ban in place. But, it’s key to remember that businesses and organisations have the power to set their own policies on vaping within their premises.
Go Smoke Free, a vaping vendor online, has reported that numerous councils have put custom restrictions in place in certain areas and local laws exist that prohibit vaping. The smoking ban in workplaces or public areas doesn’t apply to vaping. However, you can’t vape just anywhere you fancy. It usually comes down to the discretion of whoever owns the specific area. Open public spaces are down to local authorities to dictate, but signs should be clear if vaping is disallowed in certain zones.
Vaping in public places such as pubs, restaurants, or coffee shops is largely down to the discretion of the establishment’s owners. There is no sweeping legal ban on vaping in these places.
Nevertheless, many establishments have opted to implement bans, including prominent chains like Starbucks, KFC, McDonald’s, and Caffè Nero.
Health Warnings on Vapes
Health warnings are a mandatory requirement on vaping products, including e-cigarettes, in the UK. They aim to inform users and potential users about the potential risks of vaping. Though the specific warnings might vary depending on the product, they usually cover the following areas:
- Nicotine content: Warnings often highlight that the product contains nicotine, an addictive substance.
- Underage use: Health warnings stress that these products are meant for adult smokers only, not for people under 18.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Warnings point out the potential risks of using vaping products during these periods.
- General health advice: Some warnings give general advice such as keeping vaping products out of reach of children and seeking medical help if experiencing adverse effects.
Organisations like Cancer Research UK have warned that while e-cigarettes and vapes are much safer than cigarettes, their long-term effects are still unknown. The charity urges people who have never smoked not to use them, highlighting that the decision isn’t risk-free. The NHS concurs that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking but is not devoid of risk.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What age can you legally vape in the UK? At present, you must be at least 18 years old to buy and use a vape in the UK.
- Can you vape in public areas in the UK? Yes, you can vape in public areas unless a specific establishment or public area has imposed a ban.
- Can I vape in restaurants and pubs in the UK? The decision to allow vaping in restaurants and pubs is at the discretion of the individual establishment owners.