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The Royal College of Physicians response to the government’s consultation on youth vaping

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has submitted a response to the government’s call for evidence on youth vaping.

The government launched its call for evidence on youth vaping in April 2023. The aim of the call for evidence was to ‘identify opportunities to reduce the number of children (people aged under 18) accessing and using vape products, while ensuring they are still easily available as a quit aid for adult smokers.’

As we said in our Smoking and Health 2021: a coming of age for tobacco control? report, e-cigarettes are an effective treatment for tobacco dependency. That report also recommended that mass media campaigns support the use of electronic cigarettes as a quitting aid or substitute for smoking, and redress false perceptions about the safety of e-cigarettes compared with cigarettes.

The main points of our response to the government’s youth vaping consultation were:

  • We strongly support the banning of giving free vaping products to people under the age of 18. The government has announced that it will close the legal loophole allowing free vapes to be given to children.
  • We support the recommendation put forward by ASH to raise the price of disposable vaping products, the vaping products most commonly used by children.
  • Broad restriction of access to regulated vaping products may have the unintended consequence of limiting access to vaping products for people trying to stop smoking and former smokers relapsing to smoking.
  • The purchase of illicit vapes by children and underage sale of vapes to children should be addressed by increased investment in local authority trading standard services which has been eroded over several years.
  • The announcement by the public health minister in April 2023 that further investment in these services is welcomed, however larger, sustained investment is required to tackle the widespread problem of underage sale of vapes and illicit vaping products.
  • Sustained funding for research is necessary to provide evidence on the questions set out in the government’s review.
  • There has been a steep decline in smoking among children seen over the past decade. The evidence shows that uptake of smoking by children is increased if there are parents or other household members that smoke. It is therefore important to consider any possible unintended consequences from reducing quit rates in adults (by restricting access to vaping products for adults using vaping to quit smoking).
  • The wholesale limiting of flavours accessible to adults is not recommended. The use of flavours by adults trying to quit smoking is an integral part of the effectiveness of vaping as a quit aid.