Retailers are offering children free samples of e-cigarettes, whose colorful designs and fruity flavors make them stand out on grocery store shelves, in a crackdown on vaping, the British government said.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement released by the health department: “I am deeply concerned by the dramatic rise in vaping among children and appalled by reports that illicit e-cigarettes containing lead are reaching school children”.
“The marketing and illegal sale of e-cigarettes to children is completely unacceptable.”
The statement cited a 2023 survey of 11-17 year olds by public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), in which two in five young people said they vaped just to try, while five One in three said they vaped because of peer pressure.
The problem is not unique to the UK, where it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to under-18s. An estimated 2.55 million U.S. middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in early 2022 in a survey, a level health officials called “worrying.”
“We should continue to encourage smokers to switch to vaping, as there are fewer risks, while preventing the marketing and sale of vaping to children,” England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said in a statement.
The government said it would also review rules on fines for shops selling e-cigarettes to under-18s to allow local authorities to more easily issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices.
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