China has banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes as part of a broad crackdown on the vaping industry, The Guardian reported. The new rules mean that flavors other than tobacco — such as fruit-flavored or sweet e-cigarettes — cannot be sold in the domestic market.
But they can still be made in China and shipped around the world, including to the UK. In the UK, Chinese-made brands such as Elfbar, known for their various flavoured disposable e-cigarettes, are popular.
The ban, which went into effect this month, comes on the heels of other rules related to e-cigarettes, including a ban on online sales of e-cigarettes and a requirement for warning labels on packaging stating that e-cigarettes are harmful to health and should not be used by school children.
This is in response to concerns about underage vaping in China and could seriously impact its rapidly growing domestic vaping market.
According to the China Electronic Chamber of Commerce, China’s exports have also grown significantly in recent years, reaching 138.3 billion yuan in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 180%.
Disposable e-cigarettes made by brands such as Elfbar are widely available in the UK and online. They cost around £5 each and come in a variety of flavours including banana ice, watermelon and strawberry ice cream.
While the number of young people using e-cigarettes in the UK is relatively small, research shows it is growing.
A survey by YouGov and the charity Action on Smoking and Health found that the proportion of children aged 11 to 17 who used e-cigarettes rose from 4% in 2020 to 7% in 2022. The percentage of children who tried e-cigarettes also rose from 14% to 16%.
More than half of children who vaped said disposable e-cigarettes were their product of choice – up from 7% in 2020 – and the most popular brand was Elfbar.
In July, an observer investigation found that Elfbar was ignoring rules to market its products to young people in the UK. Influencers promote these items in videos on TikTok, in some cases claiming to pay for promotions and benefit from free products. The videos — many of which show influencers vaping on camera — have no age restrictions and aren’t always clearly marked as ads.
Some have attracted hundreds of thousands of views on TikTok, which is used by half of 8- to 11-year-olds and three-quarters of 16- to 17-year-olds.
In response to the findings, Elfbar said it was well aware of UK regulations and would conduct an internal investigation into the allegations.
The UK e-cigarette market is worth more than £1 billion a year. The Association of Public Health Directors is calling for stricter regulations to ban brightly colored packaging and a review of flavors that may appeal to children.
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