How old do you have to be to vape in the UK?
You need to be at least 18 years old to buy E-Cigarette and vaping products in the UK because they contain nicotine. All nicotine products sold in the UK are considered restricted products because they contain nicotine and they fall under the Tobacco Products Directive - vaping regulations established in 2016.
It’s well known that once you start smoking it can be very hard to stop. The addictive chemical ‘nicotine’ is present in tobacco products, with more chemicals added that increase how much nicotine your body absorbs. This means that smokers get used to a strong hit of nicotine when they have a cigarette and then, as the nicotine levels in the brain go down, the smoker starts to crave another cigarette.
This cycle of addiction is what makes giving up smoking very tough for most people, and a dangerous position to be in – one recent study found that smoking a cigarette costs you, on average, 11 minutes of life.
With this knowledge, it is clear that tobacco harm reduction products have an important role to play in helping people to stop smoking. Things get a bit tricky when it comes to youth smoking as you need to be 18 years of age to buy nicotine products in the UK. As vaping is proving to be a successful method of quitting cigarettes, you may be wondering what is the legal age to vape UK?
What is vaping?
Vaping is the act of inhaling on an E-Cigarette and exhaling the vapour produced. The term ‘E-Cigarette’ literally means ‘electronic cigarette’ and this includes all types of vaping device (sometimes referred to as ‘ENDS’ or ‘electronic nicotine delivery system’) – that means everything from the cigaike devices that are designed to look and feel like a tobacco cigarette, to the bricks-with-chimneys that some vapers use.
The vape device works by heating up a mixture known as e-liquid or ‘vape juice’ into an aerosol, which is inhaled by the user, and then expelled in a cloud of vapour! This is great because the e-liquid can contain nicotine, allowing smokers to satisfy nicotine cravings without all of the harm that comes from smoking tobacco.
Many smokers are finding vaping to be a great way of quitting smoking because vaping provides a hand-to-mouth action – just like smoking – allowing smokers to get their nicotine in a similar way to smoking, just with most of the harm removed! Even better, studies have shown that E-Cigarettes could be up to twice as effective as nicotine replacement products, such as nicotine gum and patches, for quitting smoking!
Types of E-Cigarette
As a relatively new industry, there is quite a lot of choice when it comes to selecting your vape device. These can be divided into a number of categories, the first of which is ‘open or closed systems’ – this indicates whether the vape device is self-contained; open systems let the vaper add the e-liquid of their choice, where closed systems use pre-filled refills.
Closed systems include the cigalike devices, pre-filled pod vapes and disposable vapes. These often come in two parts: the refill and the battery. Once the refill is used up, put a new refill on the battery and away you go!
Open systems include anything refillable: vape pens, pod vapes, vape mods (the big bricks) and mechanical mods. Open systems require more maintenance because some parts need to be cleaned or changed over time and there is always a risk of spillage or leak creating a mess or getting into the main housing, which could cause issues.
Closed systems are the easiest to use and can take the stress out of quitting smoking, making them the best choice for heavy smokers trying to quit. Check out the SMOKO VAPE POD Starter Kit for an easy-to-use, pre-filled device that takes the stress out of quitting smoking!
Refillable devices range from fairly simple vape pens to complex vape mods that allow the user to fill the tank with their own e-liquid, choose the type of coil used to heat up the e-liquid and choose the power output of the device – all factors that impact the vaping experience.
High powered vapes are best suited to low nicotine e-liquids, and liquids that are more balanced in favour of vegetable glycerine. This is down to the amount of vapour produced; both nicotine and propylene glycol contribute to the throat-hit as the vapour goes into the lungs – so If you use a high nicotine, PG favoured e-liquid in a powerful device you may end up having a coughing fit!
Why should you vape?
The E-Cigarette was designed to be a way of getting nicotine in a similar way to smoking but without the harm we know is associated with tobacco use. In the UK, the health authorities including Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians found that E-Cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes, showing that vaping is a valid tobacco harm reduction tool.
Many smokers have a really hard time when they try to quit smoking – not only are there physical cravings, but the impact of these cravings can then increase stress, create mood issues while your body is adjusting to the lack of nicotine, which in turn can have a bad effect on your relationships. There are a bunch of other side-effects of quitting, like headaches and trouble sleeping, so it is understandable that smokers trying to quit may relapse to alleviate these issues.
This is where E-Cigarettes can help. E-liquid contains propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavourings, and nicotine. This means that vaping delivers the nicotine, alleviating nicotine withdrawal symptoms, while eliminating the 4000+ chemicals found in tobacco and the nasty biproducts made by burning it, like tar and carbon monoxide.
Vaping is therefore meant to be a way for smokers to reduce the harm they are doing to themselves and those around them. Not only is vaping 95% less harmful than smoking, there is no ‘passive vaping’ risk because there is no sidestream smoke (this is when a cigarette continues to burn when not being inhaled on) and the exhaled E-Cigarette vapour is over 99% water vapour!
The best vape for quitting smoking
Finding a way of vaping that works for you is key to making the switch from smoking to vaping as seamless as possible. There are some studies that have investigated which type of vape appears to be best a helping people to quit, and it looks like a win for the low-powered, pre-filled devices.
A combination of factors may be responsible for this. Smokers first making the switch to E-Cigarettes are likely to choose a cigalike style device due to the shape and feel being so close to an actual cigarette. This allows the smoker carry on with the habit as if they hadn’t stopped smoking, but with 95% of the harm removed!
Low powered devices require using an e-liquid that favours PG instead of vegetable glycerine (VG) as VG heavy liquids are thicker, so need more power to vaporise. This isn’t a bad thing – as PG contributes to the throat hit that smokers are looking for when they switch to vaping.
What is the legal age to vape UK?
All products containing nicotine require a minimum age of 18 to buy here in the UK. This includes all vaping paraphernalia, and even zero nicotine e-liquids or disposable vapes. How well these rules are stuck to, however, is another matter altogether.
So, just like tobacco products, people under 18 shouldn’t be able to get their hands on vaping products – with a big emphasis on ‘shouldn’t be able to’…
What is the legal age to vape worldwide?
In the UK, you are considered an adult at 18 years of age. This means the majority of products and activities restricted to ‘adults’ in the UK require you to be at least 18 years old. As this is not the case from country to country, it is worth noting that the legal age for vaping is different depending on where you are in the world.
The legal age for vaping in Europe is 18, as it is in Brazil, China, the United Arab Emirates and Australia – though you need a doctors prescription to legally buy E-Cigarettes in Australia. The rules in Canada vary between provinces, requiring a minimum age of 18 or 19; South Korea has the minimum age set at 19, Japan has theirs at 20 years old, and the United States has the minimum age requirement set at 21 years.
Be wary if you are a travelling vaper as there are some countries where vaping is illegal – make sure to check the rules for vaping in your country of destination before you book a holiday to avoid a sticky situation!
Concerns the authorities have for underage vaping
Part of the uphill battle that E-Cigarettes have been fighting is the argument that they appeal to young, impressionable people. With appealing flavours intended to make choosing to vape a better choice than choosing to smoke, there have been issues raised about how this makes vaping an enticing pastime for younger people, and whether vaping acts as a gateway to smoking.
This point of view has been reinforced by the behaviour of certain E-Cigarette manufacturers in the United States, who have since been in a lot of trouble because they were found to be marketing specifically to middle and high school students. This undermines the whole aim of E-Cigarettes to get smokers away from tobacco on to a less harmful alternative, with a view to reducing tobacco use in the population or eliminating it entirely!
In the UK, we haven’t seen this kind of brazen disregard for the next generations, though the issue of underage teens getting their hands on vaping equipment is still present, and there have been examples of e-liquids named after sweets, to ‘bring back the childhood memories’ which is cutting a little close to youth marketing.
Just in our local vicinity, two shops that sold E-Cigarettes (among other things) were shut down for selling vaping equipment to under 18s. This creates problems for everyone – anti-vaping groups latch on to these instances to say that there is a ‘youth vaping epidemic’ and while there may be some truth to youths getting their hands on vapes by illegal means, this has been true of tobacco in the past.
Whilst not condoning selling nicotine products to underage teens, it raises an important question of whether, as a society, we would prefer teens experiment with tobacco or vaping.
It seems that the best way to tackle this issue will be to impose hefty fines for individuals and companies that sell vaping kit to underage teens, and anyone purchasing on behalf of someone underage. The first will make any retailers think twice before trying to get away with selling a product to someone who isn’t legally allowed to buy it; and increasing any penalty for those who try to purchase nicotine products on behalf of an underage teen will help to minimise the number of teens getting their hands of any form of E-Cigarette.
The future of vaping
The issue of the youth appeal of E-Cigarettes is being tackled in several ways – in the U.S, for example, all flavours other than tobacco and menthol have been banned. This extreme course-correction has occurred due to the lack of initial regulation and the occurrence of marketing to the youth, such as naming flavours that would appeal to underage teens.
There are stirrings in Europe and the UK about raising the age you can buy tobacco and nicotine products year-on-year, with a view to eliminating tobacco use altogether. While this raises questions about our freedom as consumers, we may see the age at which you can buy E-Cigarettes (as well as tobacco products) increase as time goes by. The Smokefree 2030 campaign in the UK gives you an idea of the steps the UK government want to take in order to tackle the health burden society faces from tobacco use.
How old do you have to be to vape in the UK Conclusion
It is perfectly understandable that many countries view vaping as a form of smoking, leading to the restrictions we see today. We may still see changes in the laws yet; we have certainly seen updates to the laws since E-Cigarettes first became available, but it is logical that the same restrictions on smoking have been applied to vaping as a starting point for the regulations and then amended as our understanding of vaping increases.
The legal age to vape UK is 18, and the UK may just be the best place to buy your vape kits. The regulation in place in the UK means that only high-quality e-liquid is available, tested by the UK’s health agency, the MHRA, so you know you are getting a good quality product.
Here at SMOKO, our devices are closed systems which means that our UK-made e-liquids are tested in our hardware by the MHRA as well, giving our customers the peace of mind they need when trying to quit smoking.
If you are a smoker looking to quit, and are over 18, check out the SMOKO Starter kit range and make the switch with SMOKO today!