UK health experts fear sharp rise in popularity of e-cigarettes among teenagers, as seen in the US Health campaigners have expressed alarm after it emerged that a loophole in the law means it is legal for marketing companies to hand out vapes to children for free, The Guardian reported on Sunday.
British American Tobacco (BAT) is investigating after a 17-year-old was offered a free sample of the company's Vype brand. The minor was not told that the product contained nicotine and was not asked for proof of age.
Vape companies regularly distribute free samples to adults using paid, third-party promotional companies operating in city centers and at festivals and transport hubs. The promotional teams are young, personable and sport the livery of the vape brand they represent. Some use additional free offers such as soft drinks to engage with passersby.
Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said teams working for Vype had been recently promoting the brand in Brighton, Bristol and Bath, where a 17-year-old girl working on a market stall was approached and offered a free sample, in return for her email address and with no attempt to establish her age.
When it was alerted to claims that minors were being offered free vapes, Ash approached National Trading Standards and was shocked to learn that a loophole in the law means it is not illegal to hand out free e-cigarettes to children.
Ash said that the wording of the relevant sections of the Tobacco and Related Products regulations pertaining to e-cigarettes was too vague when it came to prohibiting the distribution of free products to minors.
Pushing e-cigarettes on young people is a concern for health experts, who fear that the UK will go the way of the US, where vaping's popularity among teenagers has reached epidemic proportions.