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The UK Government Supports Vaping as a route to a Smoke Free Future


Nicotine, Trends

The last few weeks have seen vaping in the spotlight in the UK. Although it is officially VApril, nobody would have predicted the number of media column inches that would be dedicated to the sector over the past few weeks.

After weeks of negative stories about non-compliant vapes, increases in youth vaping rates, and Trading Standards confiscation of illegal vapes worth millions of pounds, many might have justifiably expected a government clamp down or the announcement of new regulations for the sector. Instead, the UK Government announced its Swap to Stop initiative and pledged to offer free vape starter packs to a million smokers to encourage them to try vaping as a way of quitting cigarettes. Health Minister Neil O'Brien hailed the activity as ‘the first of its kind in the world’ and endorsed what people within the industry have been arguing to years, that vaping offers a less harmful way for smokers to access the nicotine they crave but without the harmful chemicals associated with burning tobacco.

The new scheme aims to reach one in five smokers in the UK and offers pregnant women the opportunity to earn £400 if they stop smoking. It is being seen as a key initiative in the government’s target of making Britain smoke-free by 2030. Amid all the bad headlines it reaffirmed that the UK Government still sees vaping as an essential pillar in reaching its ambitious smoke free goal.

The UK has long been seen as one of the most pro-vaping jurisdictions in the world. But recent media stories about non-compliant vapes in major supermarkets, a sudden growth in youth vaping rates, and Trading Standards seizing illegal vape products from smaller retailers and at the border have seriously impacted consumer confidence in the sector.

At the same time the Government was reasserting its commitment to vaping as part of its 2030 smoke-free vision. It announced the creation of a ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’ backed by £3 million of government funding to ensure enforcement of existing vape regulation, tackling illicit vape sales, and preventing illegal sales of vapes to under 18 year olds.  It was a pleasant surprise that there was no knee-jerk reaction or rush to create new regulations, just a very public commitment to make the existing regulations and safeguards work as they were intended by better enforcement.

The enforcement squad will be led by UK Trading Standards and work to share knowledge and intelligence across regional networks and local authorities. It will conduct test purchases in convenience stores and vape shops to ensure only UK compliant products are sold and age verification processes are being enforced. It will have the power to confiscate illegal vape products from shops and other parts of the supply chain.

Health Minister Neil O'Brien also announced a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vapes, while ensuring they remain available as a quit aid for adult smokers. Again, this recognizes the role vaping can play in reducing adult smoking rates while highlighting the importance to the industry of ensuring that young people don’t start vaping. We fully endorse this position.

In April we joined the UK Vaping Industry Association (UK VIA) to ensure our voice and efforts are aligned with those in the industry dedicated to building a compliant, safe, and high-quality vape sector in the UK. We also launched a Vape Compliance Testing Package for the UK and EU designed to verify disposable vape devices, pods, and liquids against the TPD and TRPR regulatory requirements.

To help retailers, distributors and even consumers recognize the reg-flags to look out for on vape packaging that might suggest the product is illegal we created a poster that anyone can download directly from our website.

At Broughton we are committed to helping the sector address its recent challenges through high quality testing and regulatory compliance support. We are passionate about building a smoke free future and improving human health.

According to UK Government research in a study published in September 2022, vaping prevalence in England in 2021 was between 6.9% and 7.1%, depending on the survey, which equates to between 3.1 and 3.2 million adults who vape. Vaping prevalence among adults who have never smoked remained very low, at between 0.6% and 0.7% in 2021.

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