To protect children Westminster must prohibit vape sponsorship deals with Sports Clubs

For two years I have been campaigning hard for a ban on disposable vapes because of their adverse impact on the environment and young people’s health in particular.

I have asked question upon question, led debates on the issue, written multiple letters, and put ministers under pressure at every available opportunity.

So when the UK wide Tobacco and Vapes Bill was announced after a four nations consultation on tackling smoking and vaping, I welcomed it as a step in the right direction.

The legislation, which is currently progressing through the UK parliament, will ban the sale of cigarettes to people born after 2009 and make vapes less attractive to young people.

The UK government has introduced a separate piece of secondary legislation (a statutory instrument) to completely ban disposable vapes. It will not be implemented until later this year or early 2025, giving people time to stock up and potentially sell on after the ban. This legislation needs to be brought forward and implemented now, to limit the harm disposable vapes are having on the environment and people’s health.

The next logical step to take, if the UK government is serious about tackling the damage disposable vapes are causing to our environment and young people, is to limit children’s exposure to vapes — and that starts with scrapping the promotion of vape brands by sports clubs.

For two weeks in a row at prime minister’s questions, I have asked the PM to support my campaign and take steps to ban vape branding on sports strips — on both occasions he refused and ducked responsibility, saying that decisions on sponsorship were for teams to make themselves.

This is simply not good enough. If the UK government can rightly ban the sale of cigarettes to our young people to create a smoke-free generation then it can take steps to ban vape branding on sports strips to tackle the rising numbers of children vaping.

We already know that more than one in five teenagers have tried vaping, with experts describing this as an epidemic, and new research suggested that teenagers who vape could be at risk of exposure to toxic metals, potentially harming brain or organ development.

If we are to protect our young people’s health then action — immediate and tangible action — must be taken by the UK government.

The Scottish government has proposed to prohibit sports clubs entering into sponsorship deals that promote the use of vape products. I am urging the UK government to do the same so that all four nations are in step on this issue, as we are on our aim to create a smoke-free generation.

We must do all we can to discourage children from choosing to vape, as we have done with smoking.

We know that many children have a favourite football team or sports star, and that they pay attention to the kits they wear, as well as their stadiums and sports grounds.

Sports teams have a responsibility to promote health, therefore, they should not be able to promote items, such as vapes, that are harmful to health — a point that was made clear to me last week by both Scotland and England’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) who agree that sports teams should not be promoting vaping.

Professor Gregor Smith stated that he is not supportive of “the massive attraction of sports companies” being “used in a way that attracts behaviours or promotes behaviours” that “are known to unsafe or unhealthy” and would “favour breaking the connection between marketing of these products [vapes] by any organisation.”

Professor Chris Witty added that he wants sports teams to:

Be very firmly in the area of things which promote health and this is one of the areas [vapes] where I don’t think any of us would suggest is promoting health.

We would find it unacceptable if our football club, rugby team or favourite sportsperson came out with cigarette branding on their shirts — it must also be the case for the vape products that are harmful to our children’s health.