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E-cigarette ban for under-18s

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

27th January 2014 – Young people in England under the age of 18 will be banned from buying electronic cigarettes, ministers have announced.

The government has announced that new legislation will also make it illegal for an adult to buy real cigarettes for anyone under 18.

The Department of Health says the measures are designed to help parents protect their children from the dangers of smoking and nicotine addiction, and reduce the number of young people who take up smoking at an early age.

Rising sales

Sales of electronic cigarettes are booming, with an estimated 1.3 million people using them in the UK.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are devices often designed to look similar to cigarettes, but which deliver nicotine vapour instead of tobacco smoke.

It is legal to 'smoke' an e-cigarette in a public place because there is no burning and no smoke is emitted – only odourless vapour. Currently there is no restriction on people under the age of 18 buying e-cigarettes, prompting concerns that children using them might become addicted to nicotine before moving on to real cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are widely available online and in many retail outlets, including newsagents and garages.

'Not risk free'

E-cigarettes are thought to be safer than cigarettes, but England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, is warning that no-one really knows how safe they actually are. "We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults let alone to children," she says in a statement, "but we do know they are not risk free."

She continues: "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."

The Government is to introduce legislation in Parliament next week that will ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18 and make it illegal for adults to buy cigarettes for children.


A new offence will be created which will mean any adult who buys cigarettes or other tobacco products for someone who is under 18 could be given a £50 fixed penalty notice or fined up to £2,500.

This follows research which shows that 41% of 15 year olds who currently smoke say they usually buy their cigarettes from other people rather than from a shop, while 95% of 11 to 15 year olds who smoke have managed to get someone else to buy cigarettes for them in a shop at least once in the past year.

The new legislation is expected to come into force in the autumn.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison says in a statement: "Two thirds of smokers say they smoked regularly before they were 18, showing that this is an addiction largely taken up in childhood.

"We must do all we can to help children lead a healthy life. That's why this measure is designed to help protect children from the dangers of being bought cigarettes by irresponsible adults – something that I hope concerned parents and responsible retailers will welcome."

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