The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a ban on disposable vapes, and other measures to tackle skyrocketing levels of underage vaping, on a visit to a Darlington school today (Monday, January 29).

Mr Sunak visited Haughton Academy, in Haughton-le-Skerne, Darlington to speak with pupils, teachers and parents. 

The announcement forms part of the Government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, which was launched in October last year. The ban is expected to come into force at the end of 2024 or the start of 2025.

Proposed new rules and regulations mean:

  • 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.

The Northern Echo: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to media at Haughton Academy, in Darlington.

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 an illegal vape in one store in Durham City centre – while e-cigarettes bought in another two stores raised serious “red flags” with consumer watchdogs. 

Only one shop asked to see our 23-year-old reporter’s ID, saying it was “around the time children are leaving school”, and that he “doesn’t want to sell to anyone underage”.

Speaking to pupils at Haughton Academy, in Darlington, Rishi Sunak said there was “no reason children should be vaping”.

He spoke to year nine pupils in a personal development class, who raised concerns about how the issue of youth vaping was “getting worse”, with colourful products marketed at children.

The Northern Echo: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to students at Haughton Academy, in Darlington.

Darlington MP Peter Gibson, who has been campaigning for more vaping regulations, was “delighted to welcome Rishi to Darlington again.”

He added: “The opportunity to talk and listen with children, parents and teachers clearly demonstrated that the action to ban disposable vapes, restrict, packaging, flavours and displays will help to prevent young people taking up a smoking cessation product.”

Writing in The Northern Echo this weekend, he urged parents to help tackle the dangers of children vaping, saying that “every parent should be alive to the dangers to their children.”

Already, the announcement has seen tens of millions knocked off the value price of disposable vaping firms. Chill Brands saw shares slide by as much as 35 per cent in early trading as a result, while rival business Supreme saw shares drop around 12 per cent.

The Northern Echo: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to media at Haughton Academy, in Darlington.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mr Sunak said: “If you talk to any parent or teacher, as I was doing this morning at Haughton Academy in Darlington, they’ll talk to you about the worrying rise of young people vaping and want something to be done about it, rightly.

“Children shouldn’t be vaping - we don’t want them to get addicted, we still don’t know the long-term health impacts of vaping - so it’s right that we take action.

“That’s what we’re doing today, banning the disposable vapes that have driven the increase in children vaping, but also tackling the flavours, the marketing, the appearance, where vapes are displayed in shops.”

There has been some kickback since policies to create a smoke-free generation and tackle youth vaping were announced.

From within the Tory party, Sunak’s predecessors have spoken out about proposals to prevent anyone born in or after 2009 from ever being able to buy vapes legally. Liz Truss called the move “profoundly unconservative”, likening Sunak’s government to a “nanny state”.

Independent retailers have also warned that banning disposable devices may “fuel the illicit market”.

The Northern Echo: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to students at Haughton Academy, in Darlington.

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Muntazir Dipoti, the National President of the Federation of the Independent Retailers (the Fed), said: “While we agree that action is needed to prevent children and young people from being attracted to vaping, we do not believe that disposable vapes are the way to go about it.”

Mr Dipoti warned: “An outright ban will simply send youngsters towards unorthodox and illicit sources where there is no compliance to tobacco and vaping laws, while the products they peddle are likely to contain dangerous and illegal levels of toxic chemicals.

“Disposable vapes are usually more affordable and, as such, are a bigger incentive for adult smokers to change to vapes.”