Ban vapes to protect health of children and young people

Sweet tasting vapes could be banned to protect the health of children and young people under plans to be brought forward by the Scottish Greens in the New Year.

The party’s health spokesperson Gillian Mackay MSP said there is growing concern that the numbers of under-age people being attracted by “deliberately sweet-toothed tactics” used to market products in shops and stores is spiralling. 

She said politicians from all parties should heed the warnings of campaigners such as Ash Scotland who warn of a ticking time-bomb unless action is taken.

As a first step, she is now calling on retailers to lead by example by writing to them and urging that they hide such products from view in the same way cigarettes are. 

Ms Mackay, MSP for Central Scotland (Regional), said: “Scotland should be rightly proud of the huge steps forward taken bringing in a smoking ban in public places introduced in December 2004.

“But I fear the progress it brought is being unpicked by producers of e-cigarettes and vaping products using deliberately sweet-toothed tactics to target a new generation of users and we cannot stand idly by and just hope for the best.

“It cannot be right that these brands are promoting these products with berry, watermelon, mint and other flavours. It is a re-run of when alcopops first appeared on the scene and targeted teeny tipplers.

“When campaigners such as Ash Scotland warn of the consequences, as new evidence of the consequences that frequent use of these products is having emerges, politicians must take steps to protect our communities.

“I will be looking closely at what steps we may wish to explore in terms of restrictions on the flavoured products in particular, which are clearly targeted to appeal to a demographic of potential users most likely to be of a younger age group.

“In the meantime I am writing to the main supermarkets and leading retailers urging them to act responsibly and voluntarily ensure such blatant marketing campaigns are unable to cause harm by restricting their product placement.

“Much in the way cigarettes are hidden from view to lessen their appeal, it is up to shops and stores to play their part in supporting the health of the nation before action is taken that will compel them to do so.”

Ms Mackay, who is behind the award-winning campaign to see safe access zones brought in across Scotland, said she is prepared to pursue legislation to ensure the health of those most likely to be impacted is preserved. 

She added: “This is beyond the days of smoking behind the bike sheds, this is a multi million industry leading the nation’s health down a path to disaster, it is a ticking time-bomb, and until we know more that’s not a risk I or anyone else should be asked to accept.”

In May this year, the World Health Organisation said evidence revealed such products “are harmful to health and are not safe”.

It cited studies which suggested increased risk of heart disease, lung disorders and warnings that pregnancies could be impacted by exposure.

They also said non-smokers and bystanders may be put at risk too, and highlighted the risk of accidental consumption by young children. 

In August, Ash Scotland’s Chief Executive Sheila Duffy highlighted the risk of cheap, brightly coloured, highly flavoured vapes and disposable vapes.

She described the marketing of products towards younger people as a “disaster in the making” and warned they were also “an environmental catastrophe” because of their disposable nature.  

They said data showed children as young as seven have used vapes, with at least 35% of 15-year-olds identified as being users. 

Sellers must be on the Register of Tobacco and Nicotine Vapour Product retailers to sell the products or risk heavy finds or even imprisonment.