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Monmouthshire councillors call for tighter regulation of vapes

Catherine Fookes is the Welsh Labour councillor the Monmouth Town ward on Monmouthshire County Council (Pic: Supplied)

A CRACKDOWN on vapes has been backed by councillors who want to see the UK Government bring in tighter regulation of the electronic aerosol inhaling products. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already outlined a potential ban on disposable vapes – which have led to concerns about litter and their environmental impact with reportedly five million thrown away every week in the UK – as well as further restrictions on the sale of the products that contain highly addictive nicotine. 

Monmouthshire County Council has agreed its leader should write to the Conservative PM to express its demand for greater regulation including a ban on single use vapes, mandatory age-of-sale signage on vaping products as this is only voluntary at present, and a ban on free samples of vaping products being given out to people of any age. 

It has also called for a requirement vaping products be sold in plain packaging and kept out of sight behind the counter. 

The motion, which was agreed at the council’s October meeting, was put forward by Labour councillor for the Monmouth Town ward Catherine Fookes who has said she was prompted to act by seeing vapes, and the e-liquids used in them, advertised for sale next to sweets in a local shop. 

Since highlighting the issue the councillor has launched a campaign to encourage anyone with concerns over marketing of vapes to children to send photographs and details to her. 

Cllr Fookes said: “I was shocked to see multi coloured and branded vapes, such as pink lemonade and watermelon chill for sale right in the middle of the Morrisons in Wyesham beside multicoloured crayons and sweets on sale. 

“I believe these ads were aimed at young people and children.” 

It has since removed the advertising and Cllr Fookes, who plans to contact other shops in the area, said there is a “really worrying rise in children in Wales and the UK” vaping. 

She said: “Lots of children buy them direct from supermarkets, newsagents and garages and teachers are really worried about them.” 

Cllr Martyn Groucutt, the cabinet member for education, said it was an important issue for secondary schools and the Abergavenny councillor said: “I live almost next door to King Henry the VIII School and it’s quite distressing to see children walking to and from school vaping.” 

He said fruit and soft drink flavours were intended to get children hooked on a drug and noted national media reports of children who cannot sit in an hour’s lesson without shaking as they crave vape juice. He said: “To see young people becoming physically addicted in this way is such an important issue.” 

Conservative councillor for Goytre Fawr, Jan Butler, said she felt it “inappropriate to demand” action which, Cllr Fookes had acknowledged, the UK Government has opened a consultation on. 

She said: “Our prime minister has made it clear he has a wider plan to eliminate smoking, and tackle vaping, in our four nations.” 

Usk councillor Tony Kear, who called the motion a “ringing endorsement of Conservative policy” said the Tory group would back the motion.

Cllr Fookes, who is also Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for the Monmouthshire constituency, said she had written to UK health secretary Stephen Barclay in September and “didn’t like the insinuation I was raising this opportunistically because Rishi Sunak said he was going to sort out vaping.” 

She added laughing: “I’m very pleased Stephen Barclay must have gone to Rishi Sunak and said ‘ooh there’s a candidate in Monmouthshire, we should do exactly what she’s asking’.” 

Wales doesn’t have the power to ban vapes, due to a failure to change the law in 2016, but first minister Mark Drakeford has said the Welsh Government would “align” itself with the UK Government’s consultation.