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Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Trading Standards are cracking down on underage vaping by enforcing fines for retailers who sell vapes to minors, implementing educational initiatives in schools, confiscating illegal vapes, and supporting efforts to create a Smoke-free Generation. The campaign comes as concerns grow about the health risks of vaping for young people, with statistics showing that a significant number of children in Leeds have tried or regularly vape.

What actions is Leeds taking to combat underage vaping?

Leeds is intensifying its campaign against underage vaping by:

  • Enforcing the legal age for vape sales with fines for non-compliance.
  • Implementing educational initiatives in schools.
  • Encouraging dialogue between parents and children about vaping risks.
  • Confiscating illegal vapes and prosecuting offenders.
  • Supporting national efforts to create a Smoke-free Generation.

The Issue at Hand

Vaping, once touted as a healthier alternative to traditional smoking, is facing scrutiny as Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Trading Standards initiate a stringent campaign. Their goal? To clamp down on the sale of nicotine vapes to minors. Retailers face staunch warnings: it is illegal to sell vapes containing nicotine to anyone under the age of 18. Fines for non-compliance are severe, with penalties up to £2,500 for selling to underage youth and potentially unlimited fines for dealing in illicit tobacco products.

The concern is not without reason. Vapes may help adult smokers quit, but they are unsuitable for children and non-smokers. The campaign also extends beyond the point of sale. There’s an active push for parents and caregivers to engage in dialogue with young people about vaping’s risks, which range from immediate symptoms like coughing and dizziness to the unknown long-term effects.

The Response to a Growing Concern

It’s a substantial challenge, but the authorities are not backing down. Educational materials, including leaflets, posters, lesson plans, and specially created animations, are being funneled into the school system. Students will learn about the facts and potential dangers of vaping as part of a broader educational initiative.

In a statement, Councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council executive member for adult social care, public health and active lifestyles, said:

“Vapes can be an effective quit aid for smokers… But vapes are not risk-free and too many children are taking up vaping, many of whom are being sold vapes by unscrupulous retailers.”

Arif emphasizes the importance of arming parents, children, and retailers with the facts. Additionally, she highlights the need for vigilance in reporting those who violate the law by selling vapes to minors to West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

The Facts and Figures

The numbers paint a telling picture. The Leeds My Health My School survey 2023 disclosed that 7.1% of 11-16-year-old pupils vape occasionally or regularly, with 16% having tried vaping. Alarmingly, exposure to vaping even extends to primary age children, with 5.8% of 9-11-year-olds reporting having vaped.

In the period from August 2022 to July 2023, a staggering 65% of all underage sale complaints in Leeds were about the sale of vapes to minors. Over the last nine months, enforcement action has been robust, with 4,637 illegal vapes confiscated in Leeds and a total of 18,932 across West Yorkshire.

David Strover, Trading Standards Manager at West Yorkshire Trading Standards, had this to say:

“Many of these vapes are oversized, having illegal quantities of nicotine, and we know they are being used regularly by children. We want to send a very strong message… they will be investigated with a view to prosecution at Court.”

Strover’s message is clear, and he urges the public to report any illegal sales through the Citizens Advice portal (Report Illegal Vape Sales).

The Wider National Context

The local campaign is part of a larger, national effort to create a Smoke-free Generation. People are invited to participate in the government’s consultation on Creating a Smoke-free Generation and Tackling Youth Vaping, which looks to implement measures to reduce vapes’ appeal, availability, and affordability.

Included in these measures is a proposal to raise the legal smoking age, which would mean that children currently aged 14 and under would never be able to legally purchase tobacco. This is in addition to enhancing local stop-smoking services, funding anti-smoking campaigns, and continuing the fight against illicit tobacco and vaping products.

Leeds, where 16.7% of people over the age of 15 currently smoke, is facing a significant public health challenge. The city’s stance on vaping amongst its youth is clear and the recent actions taken are indicative of a strong commitment to public health and the well-being of its young residents. With the concerted efforts of the council, trading standards, schools, parents, and caregivers, Leeds is setting an example in the struggle against underage vaping and the broader battle for a smoke-free future.

By george