E-cigarettes to be stubbed out for under-18s

e-cigarettes The UK smoking ban does not apply to e-cigarettes

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Under-18s in England are to be banned from buying electronic cigarettes, the government has announced.

Experts say it is not yet known what harm the tobacco-free devices could inflict and that their contents could be damaging young people's health.

An estimated 1.3m people in the UK use e-cigarettes which were designed to help smokers quit.

Ministers also plan to make it illegal for adults to buy traditional cigarettes for anyone under 18.


Electronic cigarettes mimic the effects of real cigarettes, producing a vapour that is potentially less harmful than cigarette smoke and free of some of its damaging substances, such as tar.

The vapour does often, however, contain nicotine, the addictive substance that provides the "hit" in cigarette smoke.

The jury is still out about just how safe e-cigarettes are, and nobody knows what their long-term impact is on health.

There are plans to licence e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking from 2016, but at present they are not available on the NHS, unlike other smoking cessation aids such as nicotine patches.

Because they are not regulated, the contents of e-cigarettes can vary. Some have been found to contain toxic chemicals which are also found in tobacco, and have been linked to cancer.

There is also only sketchy evidence that e-cigarettes help people to give up smoking.

While smoking rates have fallen to their lowest ever level, experts fear the electronic substitutes could be encouraging teenagers to take up the habit.

The battery-powered devices, which can be bought online and in some pubs, chemists and newsagents, deliver a hit of addictive nicotine and emit water vapour to mimic the feeling and look of smoking.

The vapour is considered potentially less harmful than cigarette smoke and is free of some its damaging substances such as tar.

Start Quote

Dame Sally Davies

They could be extremely damaging to young people's health”

End Quote Prof Dame Sally Davies Chief medical officer, England

"We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults, let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk free," Prof Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said.

"E-cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and the amount of nicotine and other chemical constituents and contaminants, including vaporised flavourings, varies between products - meaning they could be extremely damaging to young people's health."

Katherine Devlin, president of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, welcomed the changes in the law, saying they had been asking for it "for years".

"It's high time that it was mandated in law so that it can be robustly enforced," she added, pointing out that product labelling made it clear e-cigarettes were not for under-18s.

Anti-smoking charity Ash also welcomed the changes, but chief executive Deborah Arnott called for a retail licensing system that would mean cigarettes could be legally sold only in shops, not in car boot sales or markets.

No EU ban

The UK currently has few restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes, despite moves in some countries to ban them.

Restrictions have recently been mooted in Scotland and Wales, where health policy is a devolved issue.

A Welsh government spokesman said on Sunday it "fully" supported a ban on e-cigarettes for under-18s and was considering how such legislation could be introduced in Wales.

In Northern Ireland, the NI Chest Heart and Stroke charity is pressing the health minister to introduce a similar ban.

The law change for England will be introduced in Parliament this week as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.

Labour said the policy on banning cigarettes for children was a "watered-down version of a policy that Labour called for last year" and that buying cigarettes for children should carry the same penalty as buying alcohol for underage drinkers.

But it said restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s was a "sensible step".

From 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is expected to license e-cigarettes as a medicine in the UK.

This will bring them in line with nicotine patches and gum, and allow the agency to apply rules around, for example, the purity of the nicotine in e-cigarettes.

MEPs have rejected calls for a blanket ban on the sale of e-cigarettes across the EU.

However, under a compromise deal, strict limits will be placed on the amount of nicotine they contain, and individual EU member states will be able to introduce a national ban if they see fit.

If three or more member states chose that path, it could trigger an EU-wide ban.

'Irresponsible adults'

Smoking remains one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK, with around 100,000 people dying each year from illnesses linked to the habit.

Experts want to crack down on the number of young people smoking by bringing the law in line with restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

The new rules on adults buying cigarettes for under-18s could be in force by the autumn and may mean anyone caught buying cigarettes for a child could be given a £50 fixed penalty notice or a fine of up to £2,500.

"We must do all we can to help children lead a healthy life," public health minister Jane Ellison said.

Some 41% of 15-year-olds who smoke say they usually buy their cigarettes from someone else, rather than from a shop, according to Department of Health figures.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    Very moving that they care about us. But what about much bigger stuff where they don't? UK's eager to back GM foods, lots of tests show they're harmful, nothing in corporate-owned UK media.
    Car fumes are worse than Cigs, E- or non E, but Oil is too big so we won't get continental public transport.
    Tackle the biggies not just ciggies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Within 3 days of my partner giving me an e-cig 18mths ago, I quit smoking after 30yrs. I'm far healthier (no cough, improved lung capacity) no smelly hair, breath and clothes; social events easier for all! I see no evidence that e-cigs are hugely harmful but don't think their use should be encouraged. Education is the way to go. I am sure tobacco companies and Govt. will soon be raking it in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Everything is bad for you, or so we're told. Would not be surprised if e cigarettes are banned or prescription only. Thats when some smart scientist tells us all how terrible they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    E-cigarettes surely are for people who have failed to give up real ciggies. What I don't understand is why under-18s would start smoking in the first place, are they still oblivious to the health risks? Have they got £7 to spare every day? Are they immune to the awful smell? Do they think it makes them look grown-up? I just don't get it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    Remember Mary Whitehouse? She was positively innocent compared to today.

    Now we have the e-Whitehouses, and millions of them

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    I smoked & I hated it but cigarettes are ridiculously addictive. I used e-cigs to quit. Going from fags to e-cigs I've quit completely.

    Why is it I found e-cigs so much easier to quit? Call me paranoid but nicotine is not the only addictive substance in cigarettes.

    We can all see legislation & tax is next for e-cigs. How about a more productive solution? Ban tobacco completely. It kills people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    So apparently It's cool for people to say I don't deserve healthcare because I smoke but I'm not allowed to counter that argument?

    All I said was that if I am denied healthcare, then fat people should also be denied as it's their own fault. Same with drivers in car accidents..You didnt have to drive, could have walked. And sports injuries...Own fault.

    Is the moderator a fatty by any chance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    How good is it to hear more 'we don't know what's in them'/'we don't know the harm' from people who have the funding to answer every question ? I expect more anti-ecig press.Why ? Because they DO work and they DON'T like the fact. The facts are out there if they cared to read them.Farsalinos anyone ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Katherine Devlin, president of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, welcomed the changes in the law, saying they had been asking for it "for years".

    Is this perhaps more about the proliferation of 'clandestine' products/copies etc than the item itself? Seems rather odd that it was only last year the WHO "strongly recommended" not using e-cigs until professionally assessed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    268.Sally the Rothbardian
    13 Minutes ago
    If the public space were privatised, this Tragedy of the Commons would not occur, and we could choose spaces that cater to our wants.


    Why do you want such a CCCP etc. style control of freedom in public spaces?

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    281. The Alf Garnett Experience

    What a boring comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    I'm generally against banning things that don't have a proven risk to others but the numbers of smokers who say they can't quit even though they want to leads me to think that some people do need protecting from themselves.

    On the face of it if e cigs can help wean people off real gigs then it can help wean kids on and it makes no sense to give them a 2 year head start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    1 Hour ago

    Choose what? To engage in activities that negative consequences for others?

    People have the right to choose but they must be fully accountable for their decisions unless the manufacturers had lied about the safety of their products, lied about contents or misled you otherwise.

  • Comment number 293.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    I know the gags about the mans surname do go on a bit,but....
    The last few HYS on balls and the anti labour/bbc stuff has been excellent.
    Really funny when the bbc had a hissy fit and shut down a site after a few hours because of what people where saying.
    Democracy...bbc...remember that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    You say:

    ''If you choose to smoke, then you should be denied access to NHS services unless you quit.''
    If you're going to force someone to pay for a service you simultaneously deny them, that is theft, plain and simple. People should be free to "opt out" of the NHS, and keep their money that hitherto funded the service they're denied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Your allowed to gamble on the lottery at 16, join the armed forces and be trained to kill , ride a moped on dangerous roads etc etc but your not allowed to buy an ecig as it may be dangerous ??! Come on

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    E-cigs are dangerous because they encourage nicotine addiction - you have a direct hit of the stuff. But they seem so harmless - none of the nasty smoke and tar. So easy to slip from the e-cig to the real thing 'just this once'. Tobacco Cos must love these Learners' Cigarettes. But, apparently, we must be 'free' to kill ourselves with the things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    To the people moaning about the cost to the NHS - smokers end up paying a LOT of money in tax every time they buy cigarettes. Technically they aren't costing us money - they are making us money. Unfortunately you will have to go somewhere else to whine about your 'hard-earned wages' being fluttered away. Try the Daily Mail website?

  • Comment number 287.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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