Children’s Commissioner Calls for Regulation of ‘Wild West’ Disposables Vapes Market

Children’s Commissioner Calls for Regulation of ‘Wild West’ Disposables Vapes Market
Mitchell Baker who works at the Vapour Place, a vaping shop in Bedminster, exhales vapour produced by an e-cigarette in Bristol, England, on Dec. 30, 2016. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Owen Evans

Disposable vapes must be banned and others sold in plain packaging to halt e-cigarette use amongst young people, the Children’s Commissioner for England has said.

In a report published on Friday (pdf), Dame Rachel de Souza said she was deeply worried by the fact children feel under pressure to vape saying “these products are intentionally marketed and promoted to children.”
The research from more than 3,500 children aged eight to 17 and their parents found children are worried about peer pressure with some children avoiding using school toilets for fear of peer pressure to join in. It found that children are also being exposed to the promotion of vaping on social media.


Vapes confiscated from students contain dangerously high levels of chemicals like nickel and lead, exposure which has a deleterious effect on the central nervous system and brain development, according to the report.

Dame Rachel said: “I am concerned by the rise in the number of children vaping in this country, particularly given the risks it poses to their health and wellbeing.

“It is deeply worrying to hear how children feel pressured to vape.

“We urgently need stricter regulation of this ‘Wild West’ market. It is insidious that these products are intentionally marketed and promoted to children, both online and offline.

“Many children who are addicted to vaping have never even smoked tobacco, with vaping acting as a gateway rather than a quitting strategy.

“Children deserve to lead long, happy, healthy lives, which is why I am unequivocal in my view that no child should be smoking or vaping.”

De Souza’s comments follow the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) warning on Tuesday that e-cigarettes “are not a risk-free product and can be just as addictive, if not more so than traditional cigarettes.”
A festival-goer is seen vaping at Reading Festival in Reading, west of London, on Aug. 27, 2021. (Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)
A festival-goer is seen vaping at Reading Festival in Reading, west of London, on Aug. 27, 2021. (Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)

Last year, figures from a survey conducted for NHS Digital found that 9 percent of 11- to 15-year-olds in England now regularly use e-cigarettes, a rise from 6 percent in 2018.

The highest use trend was among girls aged 15, which rose from 10 percent in 2018 to 21 percent in 2021.

Last month, ministers vowed to close a loophole that allows retailers to give free samples of vapes to children in England, amid concerns an increasing number are being tempted to smoke e-cigarettes.

The charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has campaigned to close the loophole that allows free distribution of e-cigarettes to under-18s despite sales being illegal.

The government said that there will also be a review into banning retailers selling “nicotine-free” vapes to under-18s.

It added that there will also be a review of the rules on issuing fines to shops that illegally sell vapes to children, which the government said could make it easier for local trading standards officials to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices.

ASH has also found that children were increasingly drawn to cheap disposable e-cigarettes which come in candy, alcoholic drink, energy drink, soft drink flavours, and more.

ASH also found that the young are influenced by social media sites such as TikTok and Instagram.

In response, TikTok said that “regardless of a user’s age, we strictly prohibit content that depicts or promotes the sale, trade, or offer of tobacco, including vaping products, and we will remove any content found to be violating our community guidelines.”

‘Crack Down’

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: “It is illegal to sell nicotine vapes to children and we are concerned about the recent rises in youth vaping—particularly because of the unknown long-term harms.

“We are taking bold action to crack down on youth vaping through the £3 million illicit vapes enforcement squad to tackle underage sales to children.

“We have also launched a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vape products and explore where the Government can go further.”

PA Media contributed to this report.
Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.
Related Topics