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Response to Scottish Government ‘Single-use vapes ban: consultation on implementation’

Established by the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003, the Commissioner is responsible for promoting and safeguarding the rights of all children and young people in Scotland, giving particular attention to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The Commissioner has powers to review law, policy and practice and to take action to promote and protect rights. The Commissioner is fully independent of the Scottish Government.

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland welcomes the finalised Regulations on the implementation of the ban on single use vapes. We frequently hear from children and young people about the issues caused by vaping, including health concerns, littering and the impact on the environment.

 The UNCRC rights engaged by this policy including Article 6 (the right to life and development), Article 24 (the right to the highest attainable standard of health which includes the right to a clean environment) and Article 33 (which requires states to protect children from the illicit use of psychotropic substances). The Scottish Government has a duty to protect and promote the health of children and young people, as one of the ways to realise Article 24. Banning single use vapes will help achieve this.

Children and young people tell us that the increase in vaping badly impacts on their health – it was frequently raised with us during our recent consultation with children and young people, in both primary and secondary schools. They were concerned about other people vaping and also about the environmental impact of disposable vapes. Vaping in school toilets was a particular problem – with some children reporting that they didn’t use the toilet as a result and others reporting that their school toilets were locked to prevent children vaping in them. They would like to see schools become vape free environments.

‘It’s still bad…basically you are killing yourself. On the [idea it is more healthy than smoking]’.

Single use vapes clearly have an impact on the environment, they are a source of single use plastic and are frequently littered. Recently our office organised a litter pick with a local primary school and found a number of single use vapes littered, including in a play park area. Children want to see more done about this, banning single use vapes can play a part.

We are pleased to see that a lot of these issues have been highlighted and addressed in the draft CRIA. This CRIA appears to be a comprehensive overview and is clearly well informed.

We do have some additional concerns to add. There may be a transference of vaping from single use to rechargeable devices. Children and young people have told us that many young people are able to get hold of vapes because they are purchased for them by adults. Despite these items being illegal to sell to under 18s, young people report they are frequently able to purchase them. These devices are readily available and largely unregulated – they can have very high nicotine content, and are also marketed in bright colours and flavours appealing to young people. Robust regulation of these devices should also be considered to ensure children are fully protected from the harmful effects of vaping.

We also note that if young people have been reliant on these devices and developed an addiction then they may need support to stop in the form of smoking cessation. The services for this available to young people are very limited and we would welcome targeted work on this accompanying the ban on single use vapes.

Addressing the underlying issues which lead some young people to vaping must also be considered. Many young people have told us the reason they vape in first place is to manage their mental health – they see it as a ‘coping mechanism’. The unintended consequence of this policy may see young people losing that coping strategy and we have concerns about the lack of mental health services available. Young people need access to support to develop healthy coping strategies.

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