18 April 2024

RCP calls for regulations to protect children and young people from vaping

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The RCP’s new report says more should be done to reduce the appeal and availability of e-cigarettes to children and young people.

E-cigarettes and harm reduction: an evidence review 2024 makes several recommendations for regulation, including restricting the promotion of e-cigarettes on social media, making e-cigarettes less affordable for young people, and introducing standardised packaging to make vapes and e-cigarettes less appealing.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) survey data shows that the prevalence of vaping among children and young people aged 11–17 has more than doubled from 3.2% in 2021 to 7.6% in 2023.

While not recommended for children and those who have never smoked, vaping can be particularly helpful for adults trying to stop smoking. Smoking accounts for 76,000 deaths annually in the UK, but we know that e-cigarettes can work as a tool to stop smoking. On average, for every 100 people trying to quit smoking, around 14 are likely to succeed using an e-cigarette. Only 6 in 100 are likely to quit without using any aids.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the UK. The RCP fully supports the ambitions of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill for a smokefree generation.

Professor Sanjay Agrawal, the RCP's special adviser on tobacco, said:

“We know that e-cigarettes are at least twice as effective for quitting smoking than simply doing it on your own. It’s therefore crucial that they are made available for adults to successfully quit smoking for good.

“But we can’t ignore the huge rise in children and young people taking up vaping nor their environmental impact. Vaping might be safer than tobacco but has its own risks. We’re recommending regulation to create a much-needed safety net - protecting young people from vaping but allowing their use for people to stop smoking.”

The RCP’s proposed recommendations for better regulation of e-cigarettes are:

  1. Price - raising their price by introducing an excise tax and minimum unit pricing whilst banning multi buy purchases but making sure they remain a less expensive option for people using them to quit smoking.
  2. Promotion - restricting ‘point of sale’ in store promotional materials and product visibility, and restricting promotion on social media.
  3. Purchase - ensure Trading Standards services are sufficiently resourced to effectively enforce e-cigarette sales legislation and reduce underage sales.
  4. Products - Make products less appealing to young people by introducing standardised packaging and flavour descriptors. Require manufacturers to limit the production of toxic substances from vapes, require the MHRA to independently verify product contents, provide advice to consumers on which are the safest products if using them to stop smoking and require manufacturers cover the costs of recycling.