Clause 7 - Sale of vaping products to under 18s

Part of Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 9 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 12:30, 9 Mai 2024

Before I speak to the clauses, I want to set out, for the purposes of clarity, what we mean when we refer to vapes. Different terminology is used in law, depending on whether we are referring to legislation for England and Wales, for Scotland or for Northern Ireland. However, although there may be minor differences in terminology, the products are the same. When referring to vapes, e-cigarettes or nicotine vapour products, I will use the generic term “vapes” throughout.

Vaping is never recommended for children. It risks addiction and unknown long-term health impacts while their lungs and brains are still developing. These clauses are important to ensure that vaping products and nicotine products cannot easily be accessed by children.

Clause 7 will mean that it continues to be an offence to sell a nicotine vape to a person under the age of 18 in England and Wales, and anyone found guilty of the offence will be liable to pay a fine of up to £2,500 if convicted. The clause will also extend that age of sale restriction to non-nicotine vapes, as we know that children are accessing those products. The provision on non-nicotine vapes will come into force in both England and Wales six months after the Bill receives Royal Assent, to allow retailers time to introduce the measure. The clause provides businesses with certainty about whom they may legally sell products to, and reinforces our health advice that children should never vape.

Clause 8 will mean that it continues to be an offence for a person aged 18 or over to buy, or attempt to buy, a nicotine vape on behalf of a person under the age of 18. The clause will also extend those restrictions to non-nicotine vapes. Non-nicotine vapes may be used as a gateway for children to start using nicotine vapes, which is why the clause extends the scope of the current restrictions to include non-nicotine vaping products.

Clause 9 will close an existing loophole and make it an offence to give away a vaping product, or a coupon that can later be redeemed for a vaping product, to someone under the age of 18 in England and Wales. Given the clear and unambiguous health advice that children should not vape, and the fact that under-18s cannot legally be sold a nicotine vape, it is completely unacceptable that the industry is not prohibited from giving free samples of vapes to children. That loophole needs to be closed to ensure that we can protect children from addiction and potential health harms.

Clause 44 will amend Scottish legislation to extend existing regulation-making powers to prohibit or restrict the free distribution and nominal pricing of vapes to cover nicotine products such as nicotine pouches. Regulation-making powers on the sale of nicotine products to under-18s, on proxy purchasing and on free distribution to under-18s are provided for England and Wales in clause 10 and will be discussed separately.

Similarly, clause 51 will give the Department of Health in Northern Ireland regulation-making powers to prohibit the sale of non-nicotine vaping products to persons under 18. That will align with measures in the Bill for England and Wales and with measures already in place in Scotland for this offence. To ensure alignment across the UK, clause 53 will provide the Department of Health in Northern Ireland with regulation-making powers to prohibit the free distribution of nicotine products and non-nicotine vaping products to those under the age of 18. I commend clauses 7 to 9, 44, 51 and 53 to the Committee.

Government amendment 25 to clause 53 was tabled at the request of the Health Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive. It will change the mode of trial and maximum penalty for an offence of free distribution of nicotine products or non-nicotine vaping products in Northern Ireland, removing the potential for anyone convicted of the offence to be imprisoned. Instead, on conviction, the penalty will be a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale in Northern Ireland. That small change will align the penalty that could be imposed with the penalty for the age of sale offence for vapes in Northern Ireland. I am sure that the Committee will agree that that is a more proportionate penalty for the offence. For those reasons, the UK Government accept the amendment.