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Community / Move to ban single-use vapes a ‘positive step’ forward

Photo: Dave Donaldson

NEWS that the Scottish Government will move to introduce legislation banning single-use vapes has been welcomed locally and hailed as a “positive step” forward.

The government is also set to raise the age of sale for tobacco products.

There are also plans to restrict vape flavours in general and how the products are displayed in shops, as well as their packaging.

The Scottish Government said vapes – which often have sweet flavours – should never be used by children or adult non-smokers, but they are “one of a range of tools for adult smokers to quit smoking”.

While single-use, disposable products are in line to be banned, the government intends that refillable, reusable vapes will remain available, alongside other tools for quitting smoking such as nicotine patches and medication.

A vape, or e-cigarette, is a device that allows people to inhale nicotine in a vapour rather than smoke. The law in Scotland at the moment makes it illegal for anyone under 18 to buy vapes.

Earlier this year Shetland councillors backed a campaign to ban single-use vapes, with a particular emphasis over environmental and health concerns.

It came after a campaign from the Eco Club for young people in Scalloway, which wrote to all 23 of Shetland’s elected members on the issue.

One of the club’s youth workers Laura Hughes, who previously spoke out against the amount of single-use vapes which are thrown away as litter, said she was “delighted” at the news.

“I’m glad they’ve focused on protecting the health and well-being of children, which is so important,” she said.

“It’s great news that there will be restrictions put in place to reduce the flavours and make changes to the packaging that made them so appealing to children and young people.

“This has raised so much awareness of the effects vaping can have on health and the environment and I really hope this can encourage adults to vape responsibly.”

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Hughes added that she was “so proud of everyone was that was part of the Scalloway eco youth club for helping to raise awareness of the impacts caused by disposable vapes”.

NHS Shetland’s health improvement team said there is “mounting evidence of the adverse health impacts of disposable vaping products”.

This includes the “high levels of nicotine which is highly addictive, and the inhalation of toxic chemicals that have not been tested for inhalation which can damage lung health”.

“The action being announced by the Scottish Government is a step towards protecting our young people and future generations,” a spokesperson said.

Photo: Shetland News

Local paediatrician and councillor Alex Armitage also welcomed the news.

He said in his view disposable vapes are a “highly effective vehicle” for delivering nicotine to the brains of young teenagers.

“It seems to me they are primarily marketed at children, and I think that society should protect under 18s from all drugs, including nicotine,” Armitage continued.

He noted the actions of councils across the country in pushing for action on the matter – while he said the campaign by the Eco Club was a “great example of politics in action”.

With regards to tobacco products, the proposal is to raise the legal age for buying items so that no one born on or after 1 January 2009 can ever legally be sold tobacco in Scotland.

Armitage said he was worried prohibition of drugs like nicotine could create an “illicit market” – and said one outcome could be more people using vapes rather than cigarettes.

“Overall it’s important to take an evidence-based approach to this and it’s really important that we closely monitor the data on use of cigarettes as this policy goes forward, and we should remain open to changing our mind if it isn’t working,” he added.

“However despite many advances in public health as a result of legislation to restrict marketing of tobacco products and restrictions on how tobacco is sold, smoking remains a significant public health risk and I think we need to be clear that action needs to be taken.”

Scottish ministers have agreed to take forward the recommendations following a consultation on ‘Creating a Smokefree Generation and Tackling Youth Vaping’ which ran across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year.

Zero Waste Scotland estimates that up to 26 million disposable vapes were consumed and thrown away in the country in the last year, with 10 per cent being littered and more than half disposed of incorrectly.

Scottish public health minister Jenni Minto said: “Smoking damages lives and kills more than 8,000 people a year in Scotland and is burden on our NHS and social care services. Research also suggests that almost one in five adolescents have tried vapes.

“We want to do more to achieve our goal of being tobacco-free in Scotland by 2034 and after collaborating on the UK-wide consultation, we have worked closely across the four UK nations on next steps and now intend to act on taking forward its recommendations, either on a UK-wide basis or through legislation in the Scottish Parliament.

“I have worked closely with circular economy minister Lorna Slater on disposable vapes.

“These are a threat to both public health and the environment – from litter on our streets, to the risk of fires in waste facilities – that’s why we will act on our Programme for Government commitment and move to ban them.”

Meanwhile NHS Shetland said the local Quit Your Way service, a national stop smoking service that is led locally by the health improvement team, has already been working alongside colleagues in schools and youth services to develop local training and awareness raising in line with the “take hold” campaign on vaping, its dangers and what support is available.

Health improvement team lead Nicola Balfour said: “In working with our schools and youth services we know that vaping is an area of concern in Shetland with some of the challenges being centred on understanding the risks, availability of purchasing vapes, and support in stopping the use of them.

“The evidence shows that vapes are health-harming products to children, young people, and adults who are not tobacco smokers. The environmental impact of single-use vapes has been raised over recent years and locally it is another key area this ban is targeting.

“We know that e-cigarettes can be a useful tool for those wishing to stop smoking and it is reassuring that the Scottish Government is intending that reliable, reusable vapes will remain available alongside other tools for smoking cessation support.”

NHS Shetland said evidence shows that vaping is not recommended for children or non-smokers and are considered health-harming products.

It added that national research shows almost one in five adolescents have tried vaping.

Anyone looking for support to stop smoking or would like to speak to someone about vaping can contact the local Quit Your Way service online , or get in touch with their local pharmacy for Quit Your Way support.

Further vaping information can be found on the NHS Inform website.

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