Parents call for £100,000 fines for selling vapes to children ahead of crackdown | Politics | News

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Parents want fines of up to £100,000 for shops illegally selling vapes to children, new research has revealed.

Ahead of the Government’s crackdown on vaping and smoking, expected to be voted on later this month, a poll of 2,000 secondary school parents across the UK has revealed that a large majority don’t believe the proposed vaping enforcement laws are strong enough.

In January, ministers unveiled a plan to allow trading standards officers to issue ‘on-the-spot’ fines of up to £100 on shops in England and Wales that sell to anyone under the age of 18.

The new polling, conducted by BAT, reveals that a whopping 61% of parents believe this will be an insufficient deterrent.

According to the research, one-third of parents say their preference is for a fine of up to £100,000, putting the UK on a par with France’s proposals.

Some 47% of parents placed this proposal in their top three preferences.

A prison sentence of up to six months also emerged as one of the top three options for more than a quarter of the parents polled.

According to the 2000 parents, 97% of them are worried about underage vaping, with a similar proportion backing BAT’s calls for shopkeepers selling the electronic nicotine devices to require a licence, similar to that required by alcohol retailers.

The new BAT survey found that one in five parents of 15 to 18-year-olds say their children vape, as do a worrying one in ten parents of 13 to 14-year-olds.

More than half of the parents laid the blame at the door of shops failing to check IDs before selling the devices.

By comparison, just one in four said the blame lies with the existence of disposable vaping products, which the Government now wants to ban.

One focus group participant, typical of many parent respondents, said: “There’s a lot of unscrupulous shopkeepers. The shops’ walls are stacked full of them, like a sweet shop.

“Why doesn’t the government send people in undercover? Give them a couple of warnings, shut them down. One particular shop near me, if it’s school time, loads of kids are puffing away outside.”

An undercover shopping exercise by BAT revealed that 9 in 10 stores they visited to anonymously buy vapes did not enforce ‘Challenge 25’ age protocols.

Asli Ertonguc, BAT lead for the UK, said that British American Tobacco is “clear on our responsibilities”, and unlike previous tobacco crackdowns does not oppose new regulations to keep minors safe.

Mr Ertonguc said BAT “want to have an open conversation about appropriate regulation that will tackle underage vaping while keeping vapes as a vital tool to help the UK reach its smoke-free 2030 goal, an ambition that BAT supports.

“Vaping is the key to unlocking the UK’s smoke-free target.

“As the largest manufacturer of vaping products in the UK, we believe there is a narrow window to get this right with the Tobacco and Vapes Bill. Put simply, parents want more to be done to tackle underage vaping, and so do we.”

MPs are expecting to vote on the Government’s proposed smoking and vaping crackdown in a couple of weeks, with Mr Sunak bracing for a Tory rebellion of around 70 MPs.

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