The government has been urged to improve heavier restrictions on disposable vapes to help tackle ‘a rising trend’ in vaping among children.
Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee and MP for Winchester, Steve Brine, has penned a letter to the health and social care secretary outlining a list of actions needed to prevent under 18s from accessing vapes.
The committee suggested the government considers bringing restrictions on packaging and marketing of vapes in line with those that apply to tobacco products.
In addition, it called on ministers to review resources and enforcement powers of trading standards to prevent vapes being sold to children.
The government should also assess the impact of a proposed excise tax on disposable vapes, on the use of vapes among children and smokers on lower incomes. It suggested this would help to protect against imports of illegal products, which the committee felt was vital after hearing examples of vapes being found to contain chemicals including hydraulic oil and antifreeze.
Last month, an evidence session hosted by the committee heard from school and health leaders about the worrying trend of vaping among young people.
Meanwhile, the committee also heard how many children have been left unable to use school toilets ‘because there are a lot of kids in there vaping and it sets off their asthma’.
Laranya Caslin, principal at St George’s Academy in Sleaford, had told the committee how her school team estimated that a quarter (25%) of its students were vaping.
‘I would say that we have a significant proportion of students vaping,’ she told the committee.
‘They vape regularly and, in some cases, make excuses to leave lessons to go to the toilet to vape.’
Mr Brine said: ‘Decisive action is needed now from both government and industry to tackle an alarming trend in the number of children vaping and to protect them from its harmful effects.’
He said it was ‘clear to us that the vaping industry has not gone far enough to ensure that its products don’t appeal to children’.
‘When you have brightly coloured and branded vapes with flavours that name unicorns, sweets and popular fizzy drinks displayed in locations ranging from newsagents to chicken shops, it’s disingenuous for the industry to claim otherwise,’ added Mr Brine.
‘We’ve heard this issue is really impacting on the delivery of education in schools and, post-pandemic in particular, this is the last thing we can afford,’ said Mr Brine.
The committee stressed that it believed the government would be able to maintain a public health message on the potential value of vapes as a smoking cessation tool, while ensuring that its ‘messaging and education, enforcement and regulatory approach keeps them out of sight and reach of children’.
The committee has demanded a response from the health secretary by 18 August.
The government has contacted for comment.