The United Kingdom will ban disposable vaporizers to prevent their use by children

The brightly colored packaging is a stylish mix of ombre pink and lime green. The nicotine inside comes wrapped in a “strawberry kiwi” flavor.

Increasingly, disposable plastic vaporizers like this one are finding their way into children’s hands, with one in five young people in Britain aged 11 to 17 trying vaping last year, according to Action on Smoking and Health, an independent public health charity.

They will soon be banned in Britain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Monday, unveiling a package of measures to ban single-use vapes, restrict flavors and regulate packaging and displays.

Britain is following several other nations, and several American states, in already taking steps to curb underage vaping, as the colorful, modern packaging and fruit or candy flavors have proven attractive to teenagers and children.

Sunak said the ban, which forms part of legislation still to be passed by Parliament, was aimed at stopping “one of the most worrying trends at the moment”, before it becomes “endemic”.

“The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine it contains can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable. “he said in a statement.

Andrea Leadsom, Britain’s health minister, said the measures were aimed at ensuring vapes were aimed at adults who were quitting smoking, rather than children.

“Nicotine is highly addictive, so it is completely unacceptable for children to get their hands on these products, many of which are undeniably designed to appeal to young people,” he said in a statement.

Recent surveys suggest a sharp rise in the number of young people vaping in Britain. In 2023, 20.5 percent of children ages 11 to 17 had tried it, up from 15.8 percent in 2022 and 13.9 percent in 2020. according to data from Action on Smoking and Health, an independent public health charity.

The charity said the vast majority used single-use disposable vapes, with the most popular brand being Elf Bar, with fruit or soft drink flavors most commonly used by that age group.

Disposable vaporizers, which contain lithium batteries, also harm the environment, with an estimated five million discarded every week in Britain in 2023, up from 1.3 million a year earlier, according to government statistics.

Last week, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said he was concerned about growing vaping use among young people and urged member states to “take swift action to counter this emerging threat.” ”.

Speaking at a meeting of public health officials in Geneva on Wednesday, Dr. Tedros said that while the tobacco industry presented vaping as harmless, “it is full of harm and is actually harming children.”

“If you hook them on this, they think it’s smart and trendy and cool,” he said of vape makers’ efforts to market to young people, “and then they’ll be customers of the tobacco industry for life, that’s what it is.” happening”.

He compared it to “history repeating itself but in a different form, the same nicotine in a different package,” drawing parallels between the early days of cigarette marketing to youth.

While it is not illegal for under-18s to smoke or vape in Britain, it is illegal to sell these products to them. By banning disposable vaporizers and restricting the flavors and packaging of refillable vaporizers, the government hopes to make young people much less likely to experiment with e-cigarettes.

The measures announced Monday are part of a broader government strategy to curb overall tobacco use. Last year, Sunak announced plans to make it illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, so that those turning 15 this year or younger will never be able to legally buy them.

Other countries are trying to curb the appeal of vaping to young people. Australia introduced sweeping legislation late last year banning all non-prescription vaping. French lawmakers have backed a proposal to ban single-use vaporizers. And New Zealand has introduced regulations on the marketing of vaporizers to children.