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    Local stores call for better regulation on vapes, explains challenges of generational tobacco ban

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    Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has responded to the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on tobacco and vaping restrictions, highlighting the need for a tighter regulatory framework around the vaping market to prevent youth access and encourage recycling.

    The submission outlines ACS’ position on two key areas being looked at by the Government – the introduction of a generational tobacco ban that would make it an offence for anyone born on or after 1st January 2009 to purchase tobacco products; and the consideration of a wide range of interventions in the vaping/e-cigarette market to address concerns about youth access and environmental impact.

    On the general tobacco ban, ACS has set out a number of concerns about the practical implications of the policy, including the potential for growth in the illicit tobacco trade as a result, the need for consistent and effective government communication about the ban and the required associated age verification policies for retailers, and the risk of abuse directed at shop workers by people who are being asked for proof of age when attempting to purchase tobacco products.

    On the future of the vaping market in the UK, ACS has made it clear that it supports the government’s core objectives to prevent young people from accessing vaping products and to reduce the environmental impact of disposable devices. ACS has called on the government to take an ‘enforcement first’ approach, meaning prioritising more funding for agencies like Trading Standards and not introducing policies that will be difficult to enforce.

    The submission states that ACS does not support a ban on disposable vapes, which would create an immediate boom for the illicit market and do little to stop those already trading illegitimately. ACS has called for the government to drastically increase the availability of and education around recycling infrastructure to avoid so called ‘disposable’ vapes being thrown away.

    There is also support in the submission for tighter rules on the kinds of packaging and vape flavour descriptors that are available. Any products that directly appeal to children should be banned, but it’s important that a range of flavours remain available to adult consumers, which is a key reason why smokers make the switch from tobacco to vapes.

    ACS chief executive James Lowman said, “The government has set out its intention to press ahead with a generational tobacco ban, but it must consider all of the implications and risks to ensure that the retailers and colleagues on the front line of enforcing such a ban are properly equipped to do so. Our members have a proud record of preventing underage sales through the widespread adoption of Challenge25 as an in-store age verification policy, but these rules will require a separate approach that all colleagues will need to be trained to implement.

    “The purpose of consulting on the future of vaping should be that we end up with a properly regulated, sustainable and responsible market that continues to help people quit smoking, but that is not accessible to young people. An outright ban on disposable vapes would be a step too far and bolster the dangerous illicit trade, so we must work to ensure that vape recycling, flavours, and proof of age policies are being addressed through targeted regulation and enforcement, delivered by Trading Standards at a local level.”

    The full submission is available in the submissions section of the ACS website. 

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