Disposable vapes are to be banned, and tobacco products will never be able to be sold legally to anyone born in or after 2009, the government has announced.

An '"alarming rise" in youth vaping has pushed the Prime Minister to act - attempting to achieve a "lasting legacy" to improve children's health.

He has today (January 29) announced that disposable vapes will be banned in the UK.

Earlier this month, an investigation by The Northern Echo revealed the proliferation of illegal vapes in the North East. Our reporter was easily able to buy illegal vapes in one store in Durham City centre – while e-cigarettes bought in another two stores raised serious “red flags” with consumer watchdogs. 

One shop our 23-year-old reporter visited asked to see her ID, with the shopkeeper explaining it was "around the time children are leaving school" and he "doesn't want to sell to anyone underage." 

The Northern Echo: The Echo's undercover reporter was able to purchase these vapes from shops on North Road.

Darlington MP Peter Gibson spoke in Parliament last week thanking The Northern Echo for highlighting the issues that communities in Darlington and County Durham faced from vaping.

Writing for the Northern Echo, he urged parents to help tackle the dangers of children vaping, saying that "every parent should be alive to the dangers to their children."

Recent figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled. Worryingly, use among younger children is also rising, with 9 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds now using vapes.

The long-term health impacts of vaping are unknown, and the highly addictive nicotine can cause anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches during withdrawal. 

Disposable vapes have been a "key driver" behind the alarming rise in youth vaping, with the proportion of 11 to 17-year-old vapers using disposables increasing almost ninefold in the last two years.  

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “As any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends at the moment is the rise in vaping among children, and so we must act before it becomes endemic.

The Northern Echo:

“The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable.  

“As Prime Minister, I have an obligation to do what I think is the right thing for our country in the long term. That is why I am taking bold action to ban disposable vapes – which have driven the rise in youth vaping – and bring forward new powers to restrict vape flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops.  

“Alongside our commitment to stop children who turn 15 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes, these changes will leave a lasting legacy by protecting our children’s health for the long term.”

Under new rules: 

  • Disposable vapes will be banned. 
  • New powers to restrict vape flavours will be introduced. 
  • Vapes will have to be in plain packaging. 
  • It will be illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009. 
  • Rules will change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of the sight of children. 
  • New fines mean Trading Standards officers will be empowered to act ‘on the spot’ to tackle underage tobacco and vape sales.
  • Vaping alternatives, like nicotine pouches, will also be outlawed for children.
  • £30 million a year will go towards bolstering enforcement agencies, including Trading Standards, Border Force and HM Revenue & Customs.

A government spokesperson said there was "overwhelming support" among responses to the government’s consultation for a disposable vape ban, with nearly 70% of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and the general public supportive of the measure.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: "Smoking damages and cuts short lives in extraordinary numbers.

"Stillbirths, cancer, asthma, dementia, stroke and heart failure – smoking causes disability and death throughout the life course. If passed, this legislation would have a major public health impact across many future generations."

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Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: "Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer, and research shows that vapes are far less harmful than smoking and can help people to quit.

"If this legislation is passed, the UK government should ensure local smoking cessation services are adequately funded, and those trying to quit are given as much support as they need to help them do so.

"We are also pleased to see that the government is moving forward with the tobacco age of sale legislation, applying to all tobacco products, taking us one step closer to creating the first smoke-free generation."

Further reaction to follow throughout the day.