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Police to launch new crackdown on e-cigarettes in schools

Police will be asked to ensure that liaison officers are keeping illegal vapes out of schools as part of a crackdown announced by Rishi Sunak on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister has announced a ban on vaping samples being given to children after being “shocked” by reports of illicit devices containing lead getting into the hands of school pupils.

A review will also be launched into banning retailers from selling “nicotine-free” vapes to under-18s amid growing concerns about children using the products.

There will also be a second review aimed at making it easier for local Trading Standards to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices more easily to shop owners who sell vapes to under-18s illegally.

Selling vapes to under-18s is illegal but recent NHS figures showed nearly one-in-ten (9 per cent) children aged 11 to 15 used e-cigarettes, up from 6 per cent in 2018.

It comes amid criticism of the use and promotion of cheap, colourful vape products that appear to be targeted at children.

Mr Sunak’s move to close a loophole that allows retailers to give free samples of vapes to children in England is backed by Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty.

The Prime Minister said: “I am deeply concerned about the sharp rise in kids vaping and shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of school children.

“Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by £3m – is on the case, but clearly there is more to do. That is why I am taking further action today to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products.

“The marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children is completely unacceptable and I will do everything in my power to end this practice for good.”

Professor Whitty added: “Whilst vaping can be an effective quitting tool for smokers, it is important that non-smokers are not encouraged to start vaping. There has been a particularly worrying rise in the number of children using vapes, with companies clearly marketing these products at children using colours, flavours and cheap disposable options.

“Closing the loophole that allows companies to give out free samples of vaping products to under 18s is a very welcome step in tackling some of the harms caused by the vaping industry.

“We should continue to encourage smokers to swap to vaping as the lesser risk, whilst preventing the marketing and sale of vapes to children.”

The crackdown follows a BBC News investigation which found mostly illegal vapes confiscated from school pupils contained high levels of lead, nickel and chromium.

The results showed children using them could be inhaling more than twice the daily safe amount of lead and nine times the safe amount of nickel, with potential impacts on their nervous system and brain development.

Health minister, Neil O’Brien, said: “The shameful marketing of vaping products to children is leading to growing numbers trying e-cigarettes.

“Today, we are therefore ramping up our efforts to stop kids getting hooked on vaping, including taking steps to crack down on companies handing out free vape samples to under 18s and adding lessons on the health risks of vaping within the curriculum for the first time.

“We will also review the rules on issuing on the spot fines to shops that break the law by selling vapes to underage children, and look into banning the sale of nicotine-free vapes to under 18s – which we know can be a gateway to using nicotine products. Alongside this, our new specialised ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’ will also clamp down on online shops selling illicit vapes to under 18s.

“This builds on action announced last month to protect our children’s health and tackle underage vaping, whilst exploiting the potential of vaping to help adult smokers quit.”

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