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Disposable vapes could still be available to smokers through NHS scheme despite Government ban

Disposable vapes could still be given to smokers to help them quit cigarettes, despite the Government drawing up plans to ban them, i understands.

Ministers are understood to be finalising plans to ban single-use vapes amid concerns they have sparked an epidemic of youth vaping across Britain, with a decision set to come as early as next week.

However, health department sources suggested that disposable vapes could be still available to smokers under NHS “swap to stop” schemes, despite any potential ban.

Neil O’Brien, the Health Minister, announced in April that one in five smokers in England will be offered a free vape kit to help them quit smoking under plans to make the country “smoke-free” by 2030.

The national scheme will initially run for two years, and will build off local ”swap to stop” pilot schemes in Bath, Southampton, Sheffield, and Plymouth.

Sources told i that local authorities will be invited to take part in the scheme later this year and will be encouraged to consider the environmental impact of products when ordering vape kits.

However, they insisted that authorities must be free to choose vaping products that will maximise the likelihood of people giving up smoking, and suggested this could include disposable vapes.

The Government is set to welcome bids with vape retailers to roll out the scheme, which will also include a £25m contract with NHS England to launch a digital tobacco treatment service.

Last year, Norfolk County Council launched a scheme handing out vaping products to smokers in the region. Participants were able to select a 12-week supply from a range of products including disposable “cigalikes” that mimic traditional cigarettes.

Local Government departments have also signed contracts with a variety of disposable vape firms as part of regional “swap to stop” schemes worth almost £550,000 in total, several of which are not due to expire until mid-2025.

They include two deals with vape retailer Totally Wicked for smoking cessation drives in Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

The Government’s new “swap to stop” scheme will only be available to over-18s, though the Government will also set up a “specialised flying squad” to crack down on shops selling vapes to children and sales of counterfeit tobacco products.

The latest figures from the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) group suggest that 21 per cent of children aged 11 to 17 in the UK have tried vaping, up from 14 per cent in 2020.

Rishi Sunak is understood to have taken a fervent interest in the issue after criticising the “ridiculous” marketing of vapes designed to appeal to children.

He told ITV’s This Morning this year: “I have two young girls. I’m also worried about that. It looks like they are targeted at kids, which is ridiculous. I don’t want my kids to be seduced by any of these things.”

It remains unclear whether a ban on disposable vapes would be postponed until after the initial “swap to stop” scheme ends in March 2025, or whether local authorities would be granted an exemption to prescribe them for current smokers.

A law change would likely be required to enforce the ban, which would only apply in England. Devolved administrations set similar policies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are concerned about the rise in youth vaping and the environmental impacts of disposable vapes.

“That is why we launched a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products – and explore where the government can go further.

“We will set out our response in due course.”

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