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Have your say! The UK Government has launched a national consultation on vaping and smoking, and they’re looking for responses from the public. There’s a strong chance that future vaping rules will be based on this consultation, so speak up! Now is the time to make your voice heard!
What is the public consultation all about?
The UK government has been gathering evidence on cigarettes, other tobacco products and vapes for some time now. Government has taken all of its ideas on how to regulate the vaping industry and put them into a policy paper. This public consultation is a way for members of the public to show the government what they think of those ideas.
The public consultation, titled “Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping”, is a joint effort between the Health Departments of all four UK nations — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The consultation takes the form of an online survey. It’s a multiple choice survey, where respondents are asked for their opinion of a number of suggested policies related to vaping, tobacco and other nicotine products. Anyone — smokers, vapers or non-vapers — can take part.
How to get involved
If you want to jump straight in and complete the government’s online survey on proposed vaping laws, just click on the link below. You’ll need to complete this form before 6th December 2023:
If you’re not sure whether you want to participate yet, keep reading! In the rest of this article, we’ll explain a little more about how this consultation works and try to show you why it’s important to make your voice heard.
Why has this consultation been created?
E-cigarettes are still relatively new products. We know, thanks to the hard work of academic researchers, that vaping helps tens of thousands of people quit tobacco every year (source: Society for the Study of Addiction). We know less about the impact on vaping on society more generally, and what impact it might have on our long-term health.
Based on everything the government knows so far about vaping, a new policy paper, titled “Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation”, was published back in October 2023 (source: gov.uk). This policy paper set out a number of new ideas for the regulation of cigarettes, vapes and other nicotine products.
Some of the ideas (for instance, prohibiting the sale of non-nicotine vapes to under 18s) make perfect sense. The benefit of other ideas in the policy paper is less clear. For instance, one suggestion referenced in the consultation is to add an extra tax to e-cigarettes, similar to tobacco duty, which would make them cost a similar amount to normal cigarettes (source: gov.uk).
Now that the policy paper has been released, the government wants to gauge public opinion.
What will the consultation cover?
Smoking is still “the single most entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability, and death in the UK. It is responsible for around 80,000 deaths a year” (source: gov.uk). The goal of this new policy paper is to eliminate smoking completely over the course of the next two or three generations.
The government’s main idea is to make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born on or after 1 July 2009, but this policy paper also recognises that nicotine addiction is the biggest part of the puzzle. That's why this new policy paper covers tobacco, vapes and other nicotine products (e.g. pouches) too.
The consultation gives vapers and the vaping industry a lot to consider … and these are important questions that will impact our everyday vaping experience. For instance...
Flavours: availability & description
There are hundreds of vape juice flavours to choose from in the UK. One of the concerns raised in the government’s policy paper is that sweet flavours may be too appealing to children. It suggests a few different approaches to tackle this problem. One idea the government has is to restrict vape juice flavours so that all e-liquid tastes of tobacco. Another idea is to change how vape juices can be described (for example, making it so that a flavour currently called ‘blueberry muffin’ can only be described as ‘blueberry’). We have our own feelings on this. If you want to make your feelings known, then you can do so on the government’s online survey.
Point-of-sale: visibility & location
At the moment, vapes can be found for sale on the countertop of petrol stations and newsagents, in full view of anyone in the shop, regardless of age. The consultation asks whether vapes should only be sold under-the-counter, or over the counter but out of reach, or in a cabinet out of sight (similar to how cigarettes are sold).
Special treatment for vape shops
The consultation makes a clear distinction between specialist vape shops (like Gourmet E-Liquid!) and general retailers that stock vapes (e.g. corner shops, supermarkets and so on). It might not be appropriate, for instance, to display vapes on the countertop of a local village post office, but it makes sense for a vape shop to be able to display vapes on their shop counter, as this is a specialist shop that caters explicitly for vapers.
The consultation asks a number of questions on how to deal with disposable vapes. We’ve already covered a lot of the problems with disposables in our recent article (see ‘is there going to be a ban on disposables?’), but it’s interesting to see some of the solutions proposed by the UK government.
Nicotine vs. Non-Nicotine
Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in vapes, so the consultation asks whether vapes with nicotine should be regulated separately to vapes without nicotine.
There are already rules in place on how vapes can be packaged. This consultation asks whether the style of e-liquid packaging should be regulated. For instance, there’s no law preventing the use of cartoon-style illustrations in a vape juice label. The government’s consultation suggests that cartoons could attract children and thereby increase underage vaping statistics.
E-cigarettes are much cheaper than tobacco, thanks in part to the fact that tobacco is taxed more heavily than e-liquid. The cheaper price of vaping is a great incentive for quitters to move away from cigarettes, but the government is concerned that the low price of vaping might also be enticing children. The consultation doesn’t ask for the public’s opinion on whether taxes should be higher, but it does ask whether an increase in the price of vapes would reduce the number of young people who vape.
Fixed penalties for underage sales
One idea that the government has is to fine retailers a set amount (a fixed penalty) if they are caught selling e-cigarettes or e-liquid to an underage customer. At the moment, if Trading Standards want to prosecute a retailer for selling e-cigarettes to a child, they have to take them to the magistrate’s court, which can take a long time. If Trading Standards were able to issue fixed penalty notices, it would speed up the punishment process and could help the authorities to enforce vaping laws much more effectively.
Why should you take part?
We spent a lot of time reading up on this consultation before deciding to include it on the Gourmet E-Liquid blog. It’s clear that the government is doing a lot of research and trying to make decisions based on public health data and science, which is reassuring. But an NHS survey can only tell you so much.
The voice of the vaping community needs to be heard. We’re the ones that use these devices every day. We’re the ones with the stories to tell about how e-cigarettes have helped us quit smoking. We have to speak up as a community … and this is the week to do it.
It’s not a difficult survey to complete. It only takes a few minutes to fill in the form, and all you have to do is answer honestly based on your own opinions. There are no right or wrong answers.
When is the deadline?
The public consultation closes on 6th December 2023. It can be completed in about 5 minutes, but if you want to take your time and go into more detail, most of the questions let you add up to 300 words to your answer:
This public consultation deserves your support!
When we first read this public consultation, we had mixed feelings. Some of the ideas the government puts forward make a lot of sense. For instance, there are some legal loopholes that we weren’t even aware existed and which should obviously be closed - no discussion needed. There are, however, a few ideas in the policy paper which we feel might make it harder for people to break free of tobacco (flavour choice and minimum pricing, for instance). That’s why it’s so important for us, as a business, and for our customers as individuals, to share their opinions on what’s being proposed.
Overall, we welcome what the government is doing here. There has to be regulation in our industry. We’re dealing with an incredibly addictive substance, and customers need to feel safe. The more time the government invests in researching tobacco, nicotine and e-cigarettes before making new laws, the better it is for everyone. The government needs to ensure that vaping can be trusted, and protect children from nicotine addiction (vaping is only for adults who are trying to quit smoking — children should never vape).
New vaping rules can make everyone’s vaping experience safer and inspire more trust in the technology. With the right approach, new rules on vaping could mean that fewer lives are lost to smoking every year. And that, ultimately, is what e-cigarettes are all about.
We hope you can make the time to complete the online survey. Your response will make a difference.
Stay safe and happy vaping!