By Simon Finlay, Local Democracy Reporter
Retailers who illegally sell vaping products to Kent’s teenagers are to be targeted in a two year get-tough blitz.
This autumn, Kent County Council (KCC) will launch a trading standards project after figures show youngsters’ use of disposable e-cigarettes has rocketed.
The scheme will focus on business owners who sell to under-18 buyers or their friends while educating young vape users and their families.
Shopkeepers who persistently ignore the law will face legal action as part of the strategy.
While puffing on vapes is widely seen as less damaging than smoking tobacco, health officials are keen to limit availability.
Next week, KCC’s Health Reform and Public Health Cabinet Committee will meet to discuss the issue.
Last month, KCC voted to urge a complete ban on the sale of disposable e-cigs nationwide.
KCC documents note: “Although smoking rates have declined among young people (to 3% among 15 year olds in 2021), there are recent reports and public observations showing an increase in e-cigarette use among school-aged children which could potentially introduce a new gateway into smoking, particularly as nicotine is so addictive.”
The papers note two national surveys offering annual estimates on young peoples’ vaping habits and tobacco use.
The 2021 survey on vape use among 15-year-olds, NHS Smoking Drinking and Drugs Use showed an increase in current and regular use – 18 per cent reported using vapes, 10 per cent regularly.
A YouGov survey for pressure group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), revealed one in five 18-year-olds surveyed vaped regularly while 61 per cent of children aged 11-15 said they frequently obtained e-cigs from others, mostly from shops, 41 per cent of which were newsagents.
A National Library of Medicine study revealed the young people’s use of disposables soared 14-fold between 2021-22 compared to refillable products, which plummeted.
Kent Public Health and Trading Standards are working with other services to develop a local survey on vaping.
KCC papers add: “The Public Health team are taking a proactive and multi-pronged approach to understanding and tackling the issue of vaping amongst young people in our community.
“This includes efforts to curb illegal sales, advise and inform children and families about risks, work with young people to co-design interventions for behaviour change, and work with local and national partners to strengthen and align messaging about vaping for the public.”
The documents add: “We are funding a two-year…project to develop a systematic programme of educating vape suppliers and retailers on the age restrictions of vape sales, providing resources and materials to support compliance and to take legal action, where necessary against retailers that persistently offend.”
John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association, said: “Experience across the world shows that where blanket bans have been introduced on regulated single use vapes, there is a massive influx of illegal, untested and potentially deadly black-market products which take their place and this is in nobody’s interest.”
(Local Democracy Reporting Service)