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    Vaping gets a Code of Conduct ahead of possible new laws

    Photo: iStock

    The Independent British Vape Trade Association yesterday held a reception in Parliament, focused on the role industry can play in helping the UK go smoke-free and address concerns around illicit vapes and sustainability.

    The context was likely upcoming legislation to restrict further the sale of vaping products and especially disposable vapes or e-cigs, which has prompted the vaping sector to clamp down on cowboys and outlaws peddling edgy or illegal products before Parliament does, although it might prove to be too late.

    The reception was also and therefore an opportunity to launch the IBVTA’s new Code of Conduct.

    As an independent trade association for the vaping industry, the IBVTA commissioned research from Opinium of 6,000 UK adults in November 2023 found that 14 per cent of UK adults are current smokers, with 48 per cent of regular smokers or recent ex-smokers having used a vaping device to help them quit.

    Vaping gets a Code of Conduct ahead of possible new laws
    Marcus Saxton

    This encouraged the IBVTA to declare its support for the Government’s overall position on vaping as a vital smoking cessation tool: “We also support evidence-based interventions to prevent youth access to vaping products, to increase rates of recycling of single-use vapes and importantly clamping down on illegal products which reportedly make 1/3 of the current UK market,” stated the Chair of the IBVTA, Marcus Saxton.

    The current UK vaping situation

    • Recent months have been a flurry of negative headlines about vaping, and research from November 2023 found that 44 per cent believe vaping is equally or more harmful than smoking. (36 per cent of all regular smokers believe this).
    • Of current smokers that have not tried vaping, 42 per cent believe vaping is equally or more harmful than smoking, 20 per cent don’t know.
    • According to various media reports up to 1/3 of vaping products sold in the UK are illicit. This includes counterfeit and other forms of illicit products.
    • Opinium research (November 2023) demonstrated that if a £5 tax was applied to vaping products, 25 per cent responded that they would either smoke more cigarettes or switch to smoking and a further 12 per cent said they would purchase illegal vapes. A £5 tax would be counterproductive to meeting the government’s own smoke-free 2030 target (less than 5 per cent of the UK adult population).
    • Opinium also found that 41 per cent of people would be encouraged to recycle their vapes if recycling facilities were in store, 31 per cent if there was an incentive scheme (e.g. money off voucher), 30 per cent if recycling points at transport hubs existed, and 27 per cent  if better information and education on how to recycle were available.
    • Of those that vape, 41 per cent used fruit flavours, and eight per cent used other flavours such as cola and vanilla most often. This represents almost half of all those who vape.
    • 59 per cent report that having a range of flavours helps them to reduce their smoking or from going back to smoking. (It is important to note that colours in vape packaging and on the devices themselves are often used to denote the type of flavour and to differentiate easily between several devices if a user has more than one flavour vape.)
    • Research also found that 39 per cent of UK adults and 57 per cent of smokers or ex-smokers support packaging including some colour and branding. Reducing the attractiveness of vaping risks increasing the attractiveness of smoking.

    Code of conduct

    With all this in mind, the Code of Conduct drawn up by the IBVTA sets out the following:

    1. Only supply products that comply with UK regulations and are notified to the MHRA, if such a notification is legally required
    2. Refrain from supplying products under brands or product names aimed at capitalizing on well-known food, beverage, confectionary, cartoon or entertainment brands or products (for example, Skitle, Prime, Fantasi, Coka Cola, Jolly Ranger)
    3. Refrain from supplying products whose flavour names resemble well-known food, beverage, confectionary, cartoon or entertainment brands or products (for example, gummy bear, Haribo, Orio, Red Bull)
    4. Only supply products whose flavour names accurately reflect the profile of the flavour, and not abstract concepts that might disproportionately appeal to children, or which might not communicate the flavour profile to adult customers (for example, ‘dragon blood’, ‘unicorn shake’, ‘rainbow blast’)
    5. Only supply products that do not feature prominent images of cartoon characters, or fictional characters from entertainment primarily aimed at youth on either the product or packaging
    6. Only supply products that do not resemble toys, drinks containers, water bottles, or similar novelty shapes primarily aimed at youth
    7. Introduce due diligence measures within our supply chains that aim to reduce supply of products to retailers who do not have experience in selling age-restricted products, or who do not have strict age verification protocols in place. These could include communicating regulatory requirements to our wholesale customers and supplying best practice guidance on how to carry out the due diligence requirements of The Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015
    8. Comply with obligations under waste and recycling regulations within our own businesses and communicate retailer obligations to our retail customers.

    “I am delighted that the Code of Conduct launched today will cover 50 per cent of the single-use vape products on the UK market, a figure that will increase over the coming weeks and months as more companies sign up,” said Saxton.

    “It shows that the vaping sector is willing and able to address recent concerns, including around those under 18 accessing vapes, and the need for increased recycling of used vape products.

    “But the industry cannot operate in isolation. We look forward to working with Government on developing a responsive and proportionate regulatory regime. The Government also needs to take seriously and act on the growing issue of the illicit vape market, whose products will of course not adhere to the measures we are announcing today. However, we believe that the Code has a significant role to play in adding further protections and safeguards to consumers, those under 18 and the environment,” he concluded.

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