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After looking at the data supplied by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) on the increasing use of e-cigarettes (vapes) among young people in Great Britain (July 2022) we thought it would be a great time to present the facts along with useful information regarding how old you have to be to use and purchase vape gear and supplies.
The main source where young people (11-17 year olds) purchased e-cigarettes was from shops - 46.5%. The use of e-cigarettes has increased between 2021 and 2022, use among never smokers remains low and mostly experimental.
Regular use of e-cigarettes has significantly increased over the past year. Although it continues to be low in young people aged 11-17 overall, more needs to be done to prevent those under the legal vaping age to have access to purchase vapes.
How old do you have to be to buy vapes in the UK?
In the UK, you must be over 18 years old to use and purchase vape products. On the 1st October 2015 it became illegal for retailers to sell vaping products (e-liquid, vape kits) to anyone under the age of 18. It is also illegal to buy tobacco related products including e-cigarettes on behalf of anyone under 18.
Vape stores and online stores in the UK are prohibited from selling vape products to anyone under the age of 18. At TABlites we have strict age verification processes in place to prevent minors from purchasing vape products in line with the laws in the UK.
Age verification at our stores
At our vape stores around the UK we use the Challenge 25 retailing strategy.
We encourage anyone who is over 18 years of age but looks under 25 to always carry an acceptable form of ID if they wish to purchase vape products from our stores. Acceptable forms of ID include; Cards bearing the PASS hologram, Photographic Driving Licence or Passport.
If we are not sure whether a customer is over 18 years of age to legally purchase vape products from our stores, and no proof of age is presented the sale will be refused. If they are purchasing for someone else, it makes no difference and the law forbids all sales to underage children.
Signs are clearly displayed that state “Under 25? Please be prepared to show proof of age when buying age restricted products.”
The scheme is aimed at reducing underage vaping, by raising awareness to the illegality of underage sales for both our staff and customers.
The Challenge 25 policy follows from Challenge 21, a campaign introduced by the British Beer and Pub Association, now led by the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group.
Age verification online
We use 1account at tablites.com to provide our age verification process. Our online store is intended to supply vape products including vape kits, vape juice, disposable vapes and related products to responsible adults above the legal smoking/vaping age who previously smoked (we do not encourage anyone who has never smoked to try/start vaping).
1account allows our customers to prove that they are over the legal vaping age. Setting up 1account digital ID is free and takes less than a minute.
What are the penalties for selling vapes to anyone under 18 years of age?
A person who sells a vape or related products (e-liquid) to someone under 18 is committing a criminal offence. The owner of the business can be held responsible, as well as the member of staff who authorised the sale. A large fine (up to £2500) can be issued or even a prison sentence, but in most cases a fixed penalty is issued.
How do I report a store selling vapes to minors in the UK?
If you suspect that a retailer is selling age restricted products to anyone under the legal age, you can report them via Citizens Advice Bureau. They manage the national Consumer Advice Service, each problem is assessed and passed onto the relevant body, such as Trading Standards.
When was the legal smoking age in the UK raised to 18?
Between 1908 and 2007, the minimum age to purchase and consume tobacco products in the UK was 16 years or above. On 1st October 2007, the legal age was raised from 16 years of age to 18 years of age under section 7 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (Sale of Tobacco). Under this act anyone who sells tobacco related products to anyone under the legal age, whether for their own use or not, shall be liable.
Can you vape at 16 years old in the UK?
No, as of the 1st of October 2015 the government updated the laws on the sale of tobacco and vaping products. Since, it is illegal for retailers to sell vaping products to anyone under the age of 18.
Underage sale of tobacco products in the UK
It is illegal to sell tobacco or related products (e.g. tobacco papers, vaping products) to anyone under the age of 18. It is illegal to open a pack of cigarettes and sell single cigarettes to anyone (child or adult). Tobacco should always be sold in its original packaging. The packaging by law must display statutory warnings and useful information notifying the user of the potential health risks.
Can you purchase vapes from vending machines?
No, it became illegal in October 2011 to sell cigarettes (or tobacco products including vapes) from an automatic vending machine in England, regardless of age.Although, there are companies investing into providing the technology that would allow vending machines to verify your age. So we may see vape products been sold through vending machines in the future.
What is the legal vaping age for nicotine free e-liquid in the UK?
In the UK you must be 18 years old or above to use and purchase vaping products (e.g. e-cigarettes and vaping liquids). This also includes vaping products (e.g. vape juice and disposable vapes) that are nicotine free (0mg or 0%).
What is the main reason children try vaping?
The main reasons children try vaping is out of curiosity, peer pressure, they may also see a friend or family member use them. We need to educate young individuals and make them aware how addictive nicotine is and keep them away from cigarettes and vapes.
Why are there age restrictions on vaping if it’s less harmful?
Vaping is widely recognised as being far less harmful than combustible cigarettes, and can help existing cigarette smokers quit for good. But vapes are not recommended for non-smokers and can’t be sold to or used by people under 18 years of age.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, nicotine is the chemical that makes cigarettes addictive. But is not responsible for the harmful effects of smoking. Most of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic. Nicotine does not cause cancer, and people have used nicotine replacement therapy safely for many years.
An electronic cigarette allows you to inhale nicotine in a vapour rather than a smoke, vape devices do not burn tobacco and therefore don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide. That being said vaping is not completely risk free, it just carries much less risk than tobacco cigarettes. Even though the potential harm is much less, there is more harm involved for those who have never smoked before.
E-Liquid is made up from PG (propylene glycol), VG (vegetable glycerine), nicotine (not always), and flavourings. That being said, nicotine is a highly addictive substance and adolescents are more vulnerable to nicotine dependency than adults and therefore should avoid vaping (or smoking).
In 2019, the UK Government set out to make England ‘smokefree by 2030’ (defined as: smoking prevalence of 5% or less). Every day in England 280 children start smoking and more recently started to take up vaping.
It is vital that all retailers in the UK who sell vape products to the general public have a responsibility to keep tobacco and vape products out of the hands of those under the legal vaping age.
Who is vaping for?
The main reason people make the switch from cigarettes to vaping is because vaping is widely regarded as a far less harmful alternative to cigarette smoking. Many people use vaping as a way to help them quit smoking but still enjoy nicotine, without many of the harmful chemicals found in burning cigarettes.
What is in place to prevent children from starting to use vape products?
The TRPR (Tobacco and Related Products Regulations) was introduced by Parliament in 2016 adding further regulation to strengthen tobacco control in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The TRPR sets minimum standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refill containers (e-liquids). Ensures the correct information is provided to customers so they can make informed decisions, and makes sure that vape products are sold in an environment that protects children from starting to use them.
What are the requirements introduced by the TRPR?
Health warnings on the packaging of vape products are an effective communication medium to warn consumers about the addictiveness of nicotine. The medium is the message, and clearly informs underage vapers of the addictive nature of nicotine before they start vaping.
Why are vapes regulated as tobacco products?
Even though e-cigarettes and e-liquids do not contain tobacco, they are regarded by many governments around the world as tobacco products and regulated under the same umbrella as cigarettes. E-Cigarettes are considered tobacco products because they mostly contain nicotine which is extracted from the tobacco leaf, and is addictive.
What is the legal age to vape in other countries?
The legal vaping age varies in countries around the world, and each has their own rules and regulations. Most laws surrounding vaping are most often similar to the laws on smoking.
Most European countries (e.g. France, Spain, Germany, Sweden) the legal age to vape is 18. They are working from similar laws to the UK called the TPD (Tobacco Products Directive), or EUTPD (European Tobacco Products Directive) (2014/40/EU). The TPD places limits on the sale and merchandising of tobacco and tobacco related products, with an aim to improve the way the tobacco market functions and ensure a high level of health protection over European citizens. The TPD came into force on 20th May 2016.
AGE RESTRICTIONS AROUND THE WORLD FOR VAPING
What is the legal age to buy vapes in the USA?
The legal vaping age in the USA was raised from 18 to 21 under a legislation (known as ‘Tobacco 21’ or ‘T21’) on 20th December 2019. The President (Donald Trump) signed the legislation amending the FDA Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), making it illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product to anyone under the age of 21 (including; cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookah tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, electronic nicotine delivery systems including e-cigarettes and e-liquids).
Tobacco 21 legislation is also known as the Synar Amendment and program (named after its sponsor, Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma) which prohibits the sale and distribution of tobacco products to people under 21.
Age 21+ to buy or use e-cigarettes (Tobacco 21)
Alabama (Tobacco 21 since: 1st August 2021)
Arkansas (Tobacco 21 since: 1st September 2019)
California (Tobacco 21 since: 4th May 2016)
Colorado (Tobacco 21 since: 14th June 2020)
Connecticut (Tobacco 21 since: 18th June 2019)
Delaware (Tobacco 21 since: 16th July 2019)
Florida (Tobacco 21 since: 1st October 2021)
Georgia (Tobacco 21 since: 22nd July 2020)
Guam (Tobacco 21 since: 1st January 2018)
Hawaii (Tobacco 21 since: 1st January 2016)
Idaho (Tobacco 21 since: 1st July 2022)
Illinois (Tobacco 21 since: 1st July 2019)
Indiana (Tobacco 21 since: 1st July 2020)
Iowa (Tobacco 21 since: 29th June 2020)
Kentucky (Tobacco 21 since: 26th March 2020)
Louisiana (Tobacco 21 since: 1st August 2021)
Maine (Tobacco 21 since: 1st July 2018)
Maryland (Tobacco 21 since: 1st October 2019)
Massachusetts (Tobacco 21 since: 21st December 2018)
Michigan (Tobacco 21 since: 22nd July 2022)
Minnesota (Tobacco 21 since: 16th May 2020)
Mississippi (Tobacco 21 since: 8th July 2020)
Nebraska (Tobacco 21 since: 15th August 2020)
Nevada (Tobacco 21 since: 27th May 2021)
New Hampshire (Tobacco 21 since: 29th July 2020)
New Jersey (Tobacco 21 since: 1st November 2017)
New Mexico (Tobacco 21 since: 30th August 2020)
New York (Tobacco 21 since: 13th November 2019)
North Dakota (Tobacco 21 since: 1st August 2021)
Ohio (Tobacco 21 since: 17th October 2019)
Oklahoma (Tobacco 21 since: 16th May 2020)
Oregon (Tobacco 21 since: 9th August 2017)
Pennsylvania (Tobacco 21 since: 1st July 2020)
Rhode Island (Tobacco 21 since: 7th July 2021)
South Dakota (Tobacco 21 since: 2nd March 2020)
Tennessee (Tobacco 21 since: 1st January 2021)
Texas (Tobacco 21 since: 7th June 2019)
Utah (Tobacco 21 since: 1st July 2020)
Vermont (Tobacco 21 since: 1st September 2019)
Virginia (Tobacco 21 since: 1st July 2019)
Washington (Tobacco 21 since: 5th April 2019)
Washington DC (Tobacco 21 since: 18th February 2017)
Wyoming (Tobacco 21 since: 13th March 2020)
The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) is cracking down on the illegal sale of vapes to minors, but also child-friendly marketing of vapes to their youth.
In January 2023, a Californian judge approved a $255 million settlement in the Juul class action lawsuit, claiming Juul had been intentionally and deceptively targeting minors with their marketing. Juul agreed to pay the settlement and undertake measures that will prevent future underage use and sales of their products.
In November 2022, The FRA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data from the 2022 National Youth Survey (NYTS) on tobacco use. Their findings found that more than 1 in 10 middle and high school students (3.08 million) had used a tobacco product.
The NYTS (National Youth Tobacco Survey) 2022 found that… More than 3 million middle and high school students in the USA currently use a tobacco product.
What are the most common used tobacco products used by the youth in the USA?
Canada – 18+ (some provincial laws have increased the legal vaping age to 19 or 21)
Australia – 18+ (vapes containing nicotine can only be sold by pharmacies to adults with a valid prescription)
China – 18+
South Africa – 18+
Ecuador – 18+
El Salvador – 18+
Ethiopia – 21+
For more information about age restrictions and the sale of nicotine vaping products around the world take a look at: Global State Of Tobacco Harm Reduction
Antigua and Barbuda
Japan (e-cigarettes containing nicotine)
It is vital that we continue to make vaping equipment and tobacco products inaccessible for minors and protect them from the dangers of nicotine addiction. While most vape shops and stores around the UK adhere to the legal vaping age restriction laws, there are a few who disregard the health of the teenagers they are selling to in order to make an easy sale to line their pockets.
If you are over the legal vaping age in the UK (18), take a look at our huge selection of nicotine salts, freebase e-liquids, pod kits, pen vape kits, disposable vapes, and everything in-between. We are here with you for every step of your vaping journey, so if you have any questions please be in touch. For further information about vapes, vape juice, coils… view our Vape Guides here.