Vaping: Young People

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons at on 11 July 2023.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

What steps he is taking to tackle vaping by young people.

Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

The hon. Gentleman raises a point of concern across the House that we recognise. That is why we have already taken action, through £3 million to crack down on those selling vapes illegally to children, closing the loophole that allowed free samples to be offered to children, and our call for evidence, so that we can examine what further measures we can take, particularly on the concerns about disposable vapes, which are prevalent among children.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

That is helpful, but Labour proposed a new clause to the Health and Care Bill that would have given the Government the primary powers needed to stop the use of sweet names such as gummy bears and Skittles, bright colours and cartoon characters on packaging and labelling of e-cigarettes. The Minister will agree that such promotion aimed directly at young people is highly unacceptable and takes us back to the worst days of cigarette advertising. If the Government are so committed to acting in this space, why did they vote down that new clause?

Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

As I say, we have already taken action. We took measures in April, and the Prime Minister announced further measures in May. We are keen to follow the evidence. That is why we have had a call for evidence. The ministerial team are looking extremely closely at this, and we will take further action to clamp down on something that we all recognise is a risk to children, which is why we are acting on it.

Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup Conservative, Erewash

Vapes are smoking-cessation products; they are not confectionery to be sold to children or a way of replacing one generation hooked on nicotine with another. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the progress that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has made on licensing e-cigarettes and other inhaled nicotine-containing products as medicines, which would put out a strong message that vaping is a dangerous pastime?

Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

As a former Health Minister, my hon. Friend is well aware of the risks posed by vaping. As the chief medical officer has said,

“If you smoke, vaping is much safer;
if you don’t smoke, don’t vape”.

That is why we are toughening up the regime. We are also working with industry as part of our call for evidence, but we are clear on the need to go further. That is exactly what we will do.

Photo of Martyn Day Martyn Day Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

Youngsters who try e-cigarettes are at much greater risk of both nicotine addiction and later going on to use tobacco itself, so what consideration have this Government given to banning disposable vapes completely as a way of protecting our young people?

Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Again, I agree that disposable vapes are a particular concern: in our view, the growth in youth vaping is largely due to the growth in the use of disposable vapes. That is why we have particularly focused on that issue in our call for evidence, and that is what we are considering.