London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his shock at reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of schoolchildren as he announced a clamp down on Tuesday.
A loophole that allows retailers to give free samples of vapes to children in England is set to be closed under the new plans.
While selling vapes to under 18s is illegal in the country, businesses have been found to be targeting children with colourful packaging of free samples.
The UK government has also announced that there will be a review into banning retailers selling “nicotine-free” vapes to under-18s.
“I am deeply concerned about the sharp rise in kids vaping and shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of school children,” said Rishi Sunak.
“Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by GBP 3 million – is on the case, but clearly there is more to do. That is why I am taking further action today to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products,” he said.
The marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children is completely unacceptable and I will do everything in my power to end this practice for good,” added the father of two schoolgirls.
The clamp down follows recent National Health Service (NHS) figures for 2021 showing that 9 per cent of 11 to 15-year-old children used e-cigarettes or vapes, up from 6 per cent in 2018.
“Whilst vaping can be an effective quitting tool for smokers, it is important that non-smokers are not encouraged to start vaping,” said Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer.
He said there has been a particularly worrying rise in the number of children using vapes, with companies clearly marketing these products at children using colours, flavours and cheap disposable options.
“Closing the loophole that allows companies to give out free samples of vaping products to under 18s is a very welcome step in tackling some of the harms caused by the vaping industry.