How old do you have to be to buy a vape?
As the risks of nicotine become more apparent, vapes continue rising in popularity.
Worldwide, a staggering 89.1 million people vape regularly, with the market seeing its biggest expansion in 2007. In the UK alone, the number of vapers has risen from 800,000 in 2012 to 4.3 million in 2022!
As disposable vape and tank technology develops, so do e-liquids. In 2023, you can find every flavour imaginable: from sweet e-liquids, like strawberry milkshake or candy floss, to cheesecake and chocolate dessert e-liquids.
These delicious vape juices appeal to a wide range of ages. But with flavours like bubblegum and chocolate fudge brownie, many wonder if they’re marketed to the wrong audience. So, how old do you have to be to buy a vape?
Can you buy a vape at 16 in the UK?
No, you cannot buy a vape at 16 in the UK. The legal age for purchasing vaping products is 18, as set out in government regulations. In October 2015, the following actions were made illegal:
- “for retailers to sell electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or e-liquids to someone under 18
- for adults to buy (or try to buy) tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18”.
These laws were put in place to discourage young people from smoking. After all, the primary purpose of nicotine vapes is to act as a stepping stone for former smokers. It then makes perfect sense that young non-smokers should stay away from these devices.
Can a 16-year-old vape without nicotine?
Unfortunately, there are no loopholes: 16-year-olds cannot vape a no-nicotine device.
Why is there a vaping age limit?
The vaping age limit isn’t just a ban on fun; it serves as a way to safeguard young people from substances that could harm their development. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the reasoning behind UK age restrictions:
1. Preventing addiction
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical proven to have long-term effects on brain development, especially in adolescents.
The brain continues to develop until around age 25, and exposure to nicotine during this period can lead to addiction and other adverse effects on cognitive function.
By setting an age limit, the government aims to reduce these risks and encourage responsible use among adults. Similarly, there is ongoing research about whether vaping is a "gateway" to traditional smoking, especially among young people.
An age limit prevents young people from picking up vaping and potentially transitioning to more harmful tobacco products at a later date.
2. Simplifying law enforcement
A uniform age limit for smoking and vaping simplifies enforcement. It becomes easier for retailers to adhere to the law and for authorities to prosecute those who sell vaping products to minors.
3. Social responsibility
As with alcohol, recreational drugs and tobacco laws, a minimum age for vaping sets a clear societal boundary. It serves to label vaping as a strictly adult activity that comes with certain responsibilities.
Is the legal age for vaping the same as smoking?
Yes, the legal age for vaping is the same as smoking: 18.
However, there are some grey areas when it comes to enforcement. For example, the government itself states that, technically, it is not illegal to smoke or vape underage, just to sell the products to under 18s.
This makes it difficult for schools to enforce behaviour policies on vapes, though most institutions settle for an outright ban.
To further discourage young people, the marketing and promotion of vapes is restricted through The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016.
This law means that, although vapes can be displayed in retail outlets, advertising is allowed in print, broadcast, online and other electronic media.
What is the point of vaping?
The balance between vaping as a smoking cessation tool and a lifestyle choice depends on the individual. While some people may only use it to curb their nicotine cravings, others may just enjoy the social aspects of vaping.
However, the initial reason for their surge in popularity is that they present smokers with a less harmful alternative. Unsurprisingly, many smokers find it challenging to quit cold turkey or with gum and patches. But vaping provides another way.
Vapes can be used to gradually reduce nicotine consumption. Vaping offers a level of customisation that traditional cigarettes don’t. Customers can purchase e-liquids with different levels of nicotine in an array of flavours, whether beverage, fruit, or tobacco!
How do the UK’s rules on vaping differ from other countries?
The UK’s vaping rules are exclusive only to this country. Vaping age restrictions differ from country to country, reflecting the varying cultural and social attitudes towards vaping. Some countries have even gone as far as banning vaping altogether.
Vaping age restrictions worldwide
In the United States, the legal age for vaping is 21. This age was raised from 18 to 21 to align with the legal drinking age and to combat the rising trend of vaping among teenagers.
In Canada, the legal age for vaping varies between provinces, ranging from 18 to 19. The country has also implemented various other regulations, such as flavour bans, to curb vaping among young people
In most European Union countries, the legal age for vaping is 18. This age restriction aligns with the UK's regulations and aims to create a uniform law across the EU.
The legal age for vaping in Australia is 18, but there's a catch!
Vaping products can only be purchased with a GP prescription, making the regulations more stringent than in other countries.
In Brazil, the legal age for vaping is 18. However, the country has been considering stricter regulations due to the rising popularity of vaping among young people.
China, where many vaping products are manufactured, has a legal age of 18. The country is also considering additional regulations to control the quality and safety of vaping products.
1. Can I vape in public places in the UK?
While the government’s consumer product regulations do not specifically address whether you can vape in public, it is generally accepted.
There is also no blanket ban on vaping in clubs, bars, pubs and restaurants either: whether vaping is permitted varies from premises to premises. Before taking a puff on your device, make sure to ask the staff about their policies.
2. Are flavoured e-liquids legal in the UK?
Yes, flavoured e-liquids are legal in the UK. Some countries, like Canada, enforce a ban on flavoured e-liquids to discourage youth vaping.
3. What are the penalties for selling vaping products to minors in the UK?
According to the UK Vaping Industry Association, the owner of any business caught supplying under-18s with vaping products will be held liable. They can also be hit with a fine of up to £2,500.
4. Is online purchase of vaping products allowed in the UK?
Yes, you can purchase vaping products online in the UK. However, many online retailers require age verification before checkout.
5. Do I need a prescription to vape in the UK?
No, you do not need a prescription to purchase or use vaping products in the UK.
6. Are there any restrictions on vaping while driving?
Vaping while driving is not illegal in the UK, but you could be fined if it's proven that vaping impairs your ability to drive safely.