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Vape bodies welcome ‘swap to stop’ scheme and action on illegal sales  

April 11, 2023

Photo: iStock

Industry bodies have welcomed the latest measures announced by the government to promote vapes as a safer alternative to smoking and to combat the rise in youth vaping and illegal sales.

Up to one million smokers will be encouraged to swap cigarettes for vapes, with pregnant women offered financial incentives to make the change in what will be a world first, the government said on Tuesday.

The government also said it would set up an enforcement squad backed by £3 million in funding to prevent the illegal sale of vapes to under 18s.

“The IBVTA is delighted with news that the UK Government not only recognises vaping as a safe and effective quit method, but that they are also committing to directly support smokers to quit using vapes,” Gillian Golden, chief executive of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) said.

“I am also sure that IBVTA members will be pivotal in enabling success for all the new schemes to be announced by Health Secretary Neil O’Brien today.”

IBVTA said its members are already familiar with supporting smokers to switch to a safer alternative. They also find that as well as immediate health improvements, many vapers then go on to give up nicotine completely in time.

The UK’s largest ‘Swap to Stop’ pilot programme to date was run in Salford in 2018, and was a huge success, with a leading IBVTA member providing guidance, training, and products to support over 1000 smokers in the programme.

Over 60 per cent of participants that stayed with the programme were smoke-free after four weeks. The proportion of smokers that were willing to try quitting with vaping was record-breaking at the time, the organisation noted.

The IBVTA also applauded the upcoming announcement of a crackdown on illegal products and illicit sales.

“The IBVTA looks forward to continuing to support enforcement agencies in tackling illicit trade and illegal products. They have, for too long, sullied the reputation of legitimate independent vaping businesses. They have also put a very negative spin on the general public’s understanding of our sector,” Golden said.

The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has also welcomed the targeted action on illegal sales.

“The law is absolutely clear – it is illegal to sell vapes to U18 year olds and therefore it is a criminal offence to do so. Therefore, we welcome the targeted action expected to be announced by the government on youth vaping, which clearly homes in on cutting the source of supply of vapes to minors from rogue resellers,” John Dunne, director general of the UKVIA, said.

“This is the approach we have been calling for government to adopt for some time and which was reflected in detailed proposals that we presented at the end of last month in Parliament. We’re especially pleased that the government has taken on board our idea of a test purchasing scheme across the country which will help to keep a much-needed close eye on the sales activities of retailers.”

Last month the UKVIA launched its youth vaping prevention action plan in Parliament. This called for:

  • Fines of up to £10,000 per instance for retailers, including owners and directors, caught selling to minors;
  • A new national registration scheme for retailers – with only those that meet strict qualifying criteria able to sell vape products;
  • The introduction of the first ever national test purchasing scheme to constantly monitor retailers for sales to minors on an ongoing basis;
  • Funding from the fines and retailer registration scheme to be used to finance heightened enforcement by Trading Standards.

“There is no doubt that action directed at those illegally selling vape products to children is the way forward,” Dunne added.

“Vitally, it means that any youth vaping prevention measures cannot be to the detriment of adult smokers looking to quit through vaping and vapers who want to avoid a return to smoking. This is precisely the effect a ban on flavoured vapes would have, given the fact that adult smokers and vapers rely on them to quit their habits and avoid relapsing.”

Last week, research on flavoured vapes, commissioned by the UKVIA, revealed that one in three vapers fear a flavoured vapes ban will lead them back to smoking, which represents 1.5 million former smokers.

Commenting on the ‘Swap to Stop’ scheme, Dunne said the initiative represents a watershed moment for the vaping category.

“It’s also very positive to see that the government has recognised the need for vaping options for smokers. This is key as their frequency of smoking will be very different so a one size fits all approach to quitting through vaping would not work,” he said, adding  that there is also a significant need to educate smokers about vaping as recent research commissioned by the UKVIA showed that there is a lack of advice and this is critical to help smokers give up their habits.

“This government initiative to encourage adult smokers to quit through vaping is a very big step in the right direction but to ensure that vapes are only used by adults, it needs to work in tandem with measures that address the youth vaping situation which have been proposed by the government and our association,” he said.