Half of children aged 13 to 17 who enter shops in Belfast to buy vapes are successfully making the illegal transaction, a council study has discovered.
Belfast City Councillor Sam Nelson has made a call for vape shops in Belfast to start taking their responsibilities seriously and stop selling vapes and e-cigarettes to children and young people.
The Alliance councillor said:
“I had recently been made aware of complaints by parents about certain shops selling disposable vapes to children and young people. When I reported this to the Tobacco Control Team on Belfast City Council, I was shocked to hear just how widespread the problem is.
“Since legislation came in last February to age restrict disposable vapes, the Tobacco Control Team has been inundated with complaints about vapes being sold to those who are underage.
“The council carried out test purchases by child volunteers who are typically between 13 to 17 years old, and it turned out about 50 percent of these children were successful in trying to buy a vape. That’s a simply appalling rate of non-compliance.
“If we’re to work towards a smoke-free Northern Ireland and properly safeguard the health and well-being of our young people, we need to get tougher in terms of regulating access to vapes/e-cigarettes, and educating kids about the dangers of vaping and nicotine addiction.
“Retailers cannot keep flouting the rules like this, and more needs to be done to guarantee transparency and accountability around who is selling vapes and who they’re selling them to. Their actions are causing real harm to children and young people in our community.”
In March Belfast City Council passed a motion banning all under 18’s vaping at all its sites and premises around the city.
The UUP motion stated:
“Belfast faces a growing problem of vaping by children and young adults. These products are addictive, damaging to health and often contain illegal substances.
“The legislation covering their sale is inadequate. While it is illegal to sell them to under 18’s, there is no registration of retailers, no restriction on the display of the products and no resources to identify illegal and harmful additives. Some disposable vapes are designed to be attractive to children and many are discarded in the street posing an environmental and health risk.
“In the face of a developing public health crisis, this council will convene a working group with other stakeholders, including the Department of Health, the Public Health Agency and the PSNI to consider measures to strengthen current legislation and enforcement, including the consideration of a ban on the sale of disposable vapes. Furthermore, the council will ban the use of vapes by under 18s in all its sites and premises.”