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Vape sector calls out minister’s ‘inappropriate, false and disrespectful’ comments on licensing scheme

May 17, 2024

Andrea Leadsom (Photo: UK Parliament)

​ The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has written to the prime minister, demanding an apology from public health minister Andrea Leadsom over her “false and completely inappropriate” comments on the proposed industry licensing scheme.

During the evidence session by the Tobacco & Vapes Bill Committee, Leadsom said that she will not consider a licensing scheme for vape retailers, while responding to the idea of a licensing scheme being considered as part of the amendments to the bill.

She said: “I am grateful to the hon. Lady (Mary Glindon MP) for giving me the chance to give my personal opinion on licensing. It is a license for the vaping industry to get rid of the competition, make loads more money and focus even more on addicting children to vapes. It is the most cynical of all the cynical proposals I have seen. I am literally in no way in support of a licensing regime. I see lots of nods around the room; I hope that my personal view is clear and am glad that it seems to be shared by a number of hon. Members.”

The comments were met with anger and consternation by the UKVIA which has been advocating a licensing scheme that would be entirely funded by the vape industry, handing Trading Standards upwards of £50m a year to effectively police underage and illicit vape sales.

Earlier this year the sector shared a comprehensive framework for a vape retailer and distributor licensing scheme with the MPs. The development of the scheme had involved consultation with the industry and other stakeholders including representation from Trading Standards.

“I have spoken to many leaders in the UK vaping industry and the reaction is the same – consternation and anger,” said John Dunne, UKVIA director general.

“We need to take action to protect children from accessing vapes sold by unscrupulous retailers, as well as by inappropriate retailers such as hairdressers, barber shops and sweet shops. Enforcement of the laws, which are in place to protect young people from vaping, has failed to date due to lack of investment by the government, so the only way to deal with the matter once and for all is to equip Trading Standards with the resources to police retailers. Our licensing scheme is designed to raise over £50m for greater enforcement of the regulations, and more through fines of up to £10,000 for retailers and £100,000 for distributors.”

He added that the minister’s comments on the licensing scheme are “false and completely inappropriate” and “disrespectful to the legitimate independent vaping industry”.

“Contrary to the minister’s ludicrous and unfounded statement that the vaping sector wants to use the licensing scheme to get rid of the competition (which we can only assume is a reference to the NRT market controlled by the pharma sector) and to make more money; it wants to eradicate the black market which is our greatest competition and represents most risk to children and adults; and we’re willing to bankroll it to the tune of over £50m,” Dunne said.

“We have written to the PM to challenge the inappropriateness of the minister’s comments and to request an apology.”

The UKVIA has already written to the prime minister and the secretary of state for health and social care, accusing the government of excluding members of the vaping community and other smoking cessation experts from giving evidence to MPs on the Bill.

In recent months the Department of Health and Social Care has also ordered Trading Standards and the Office for Product Safety and Standards to cease its primary authority partnership with the UKVIA which is focused on curbing underage vape sales.

The UKVIA noted that it has played a leading role on child-proofing access to vapes, such as the recently launched Be Vape Vigilant scheme, where members of the public can report rogue retailers. To date this has generated nearly 500 reports to Trading Standards since it was launched at the end of last year.