Clause 71 - Extension of notification requirements etc

Part of Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:15 am ar 14 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health) 11:15, 14 Mai 2024

I will make some remarks about each of the clauses in turn. As we have discussed, this Bill finally addresses the issue of non-nicotine vapes, which have not been included in the same regulations and enforcement framework as nicotine vapes. In my view, that has left a left a significant loophole, undermining action to stop children getting hooked on vapes.

As I have remarked, I think most people would be shocked to learn that it is currently legal to sell vapes to children, even if they do not contain nicotine, given they could so obviously be designed as a gateway to addiction to the real thing. As I have also said, that is doubly concerning when we think about the explosion of illicit vapes ending up on British shelves. We know a considerable proportion of vapes labelled as 0% do in fact contain nicotine, giving me cause for concern that we could have allowed a spate of accidental addictions to these products.

Clause 71 is important because it allows non-nicotine vapes to be included in the notification scheme run by the regulator, the MHRA. The current two-tier system for nicotine and non-nicotine vapes is not currently robust, and that needed to change. Trading standards officers rely on the MHRA’s notification publication to identify illicit vaping products on the market. The blanket exclusion of non-nicotine vapes from that publication until now makes it much harder for them to identify products that are legitimate from those that are not—a gap that unscrupulous actors in this space are no doubt aware of and I expect have sought to exploit.

Including non-nicotine vapes in the notification process should allow for a complete database of products, while currently it is difficult to identify which products are legal or illegal, which really undermines enforcement action. I thoroughly welcome these new powers and I hope that the Minister will act quickly to remedy this issue.

What plans does the Minister have to quickly ensure that existing non-nicotine products on the UK market will be brought through the notification process? Has that work started, and if so, what is the timeline for its delivery? Does the MHRA have the resources it needs to manage this? Will those non-nicotine vape producers be required now to fund this work through their notification fees?

As we heard during evidence, the impact of vaping products on the developing bodies of children has the potential to be very harmful indeed. It is vital that we take every step to make sure that our systems of regulation and enforcement are as robust as possible, to stop a new generation of products hooking our children on nicotine and harming their health.

I also want to touch on the issue of other nicotine products. As other members of the Committee have touched on, those in the industry who are hellbent on addicting a new generation to their products—this has been a very profitable business model for them—will probably seek to pivot to other products. Nicotine pouches is one such area. Given the notification process in the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 was designed for vapes, it would not be appropriate to apply that process word for word to these very different products. Can the Minister say what preparatory work has been done on that issue?