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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Kevin Rawlinson and agency

Vapes may be limited to four flavours in drive to stop UK children getting hooked

Vape products against plain white background.
The prime minister is said to think that sweeter flavour are being used to appeal to children. Photograph: Peter Dazeley/Alamy

Vapes could be limited to just four flavours as ministers consider ways to stop children becoming addicted to nicotine.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has repeatedly voiced concerns about the marketing and design of e-cigarettes, with colourful packaging and sweeteners that can appeal to young people.

Ministers could restrict flavours to ones such as tobacco, mint, menthol and fruit, but want more time to mull the risk of putting adult smokers off switching to vapes, the Times reported.

Sunak is said to be minded that sweeter flavours such as “candyfloss” are being used to hook children.

On Monday, the government is expected to set out its response to a consultation on how to protect children, as data suggests one in five have now tried vaping despite it being illegal for under-18s.

New legislation to allow for tighter restrictions was promised in the king’s speech last year.

A decision on flavours will be put off until later in the year, but a ban on disposable vapes will be proposed under existing environmental legislation in the meanwhile, according the Times.

The BBC reported that the number of illegal vapes seized at the border quadrupled last year. Citing figures released in response to a freedom of information (FoI) request, the broadcaster said more than 4.5m vapes weighing nearly 10 tonnes were seized over the last 12 months – four times more than in 2022.

The figures showed that Border Force seized just 4,430 vapes in 2021, rising to 988,064 in 2022, and 4.54m from January to October 2023.

Last June, the Guardian revealed that millions of illegal and potentially harmful vapes had been seized by trading standards in the previous three years, with experts warning a “tsunami” of products was flooding into the country.

Responses to FoI requests from 125 local authorities showed that more than 2.5m illicit e-cigarettes were collected since the beginning of 2020.

The e-cigarettes are not compliant with UK legal regulations and could have higher nicotine concentration levels, contain banned ingredients or have oversized tanks for nicotine liquid. Previous analysis found illicit vapes to contain high levels of lead, nickel and chromium.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The health advice on vaping is clear: vaping can play a role in helping adult smokers to quit, but if you don’t smoke, don’t vape – and children should never vape. We have consulted on measures to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children. We will set out further details in due course.”

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