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    Independent retailers slam government over generational smoking ban

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    Independent retailers have written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to protest about their views being omitted from the government’s policy response to its consultation over creating a smokefree generation.

    Similar letters have been sent from the Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) to Lorna Slater, the minister for the circular economy in Scotland, and to Eluned Morgan, the Welsh minister for health and social services.

    In the letter to Sunak, the Fed’s National President Muntazir Dipoti said that by disregarding the views of retailers who sold tobacco, the consultation outcome was “unjust and unbalanced.”

    “Our members are at the frontline of society and well placed to comment on how best to take effective action in the real world against products deemed harmful,” Dipoti wrote.

    “We do not believe that the consultations on vaping products and tobacco evidenced sufficient awareness of the fact that it is already against the law to sell such products to children. A new law is unnecessary, as the legislation was not lacking – it was enforcement which was badly lacking.”

    And he warned, “By banning the sale of single use vapes in legitimate retail outlets, the governments of the four nations are simply handing a blank cheque to rogue dealers on social media and street corners by school gates. The legislation will impact on visible traders rather than the less visible ones who trade on a large scale.”

    Dipoti added, “It seems to us that politicians have gone for an option which looks good on paper and in headlines, rather than investing the level of resources that would enable trading officers to combat rogue traders effectively.”

    In its response to the government consultation, Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping, the Fed recommended that the enforcement powers of Trading Standards should be strengthened with on the-spot fines of at least £200 issued for breaches of age of sale legislation for tobacco products and vapes. Funding for this could be ringfenced from duties and other taxes.

    It warned that making it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products – effectively raising the smoking age by a year each year until it applies to the whole population – would further endanger people working in retail, as asking customers to prove their age was a huge trigger for violence and abuse.  There were further fears that the move would fuel the illicit market.

    As part of its response to the consultation, the government also announced that disposable vapes would be banned in the UK to tackle youth vaping and to protect children’s health. Flavours which are specifically marketed at children will be restricted; plainer, less visually appealing packaging would be introduced; and there will be changes to the way that vaping products can be displayed in stores.

    Dipoti said, “While we agree that action is needed to prevent children and young people being attracted to vaping, we do not believe that banning disposable vapes is the way to go about it.

    “An outright ban will simply send youngsters towards unorthodox and illicit sources where there is no compliance to tobacco and vaping laws, while the products they peddle are likely to contain dangerous and illegal levels of toxic chemicals.”

    The government was reminded that as disposable vapes are usually more affordable, they are also a bigger incentive for adult smokers to use when deciding to change from smoking.

    The Fed added that for any clamp down on the number of young people vaping to be successful, the government needed to make more financial resources available for educational campaigns, while more enforcement activity was required, especially at borders to prevent counterfeit products entering the market.

    To address the government’s concerns on the environmental impact that disposable vapes have, the Fed recommended the introduction of a disposal scheme – similar to the deposit return scheme being planned for single use drinks containers.

    Dipoti explained, “Vape retailers are responsible and offer a recycling option, but the government should be looking at making available more ways to safely recycle disposable vapes.”

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