How does the UK’s vape age limit compare to the rest of the world?


With smoking socially marginalised and well-known as highly harmful to health, people are turning to vapes to get a nicotine hit.

Vaping is less harmful to health than smoking because it doesn’t expose people to tar or carbon monoxide – tobacco’s most harmful substance.

The vaping industry is also less regulated than tobacco, with vape shops opening up on nearly every high street and vape liquids and hardware sold on counter tops rather than hidden behind the counter like tobacco products.

However, despite the frivolous sale of vaping products, the UK age restriction remains the same as tobacco – 18 years old.

But how does this compare to the rest of the world? And are there signs of the UK age limit dropping or increasing?

Let’s find out!

UK vape age limit

The legal age to buy vapes in the UK is 18 years old, and it is illegal for shops to sell vapes or vape liquids to anyone under 18.

The 18 age limit came into effect on 1 October 2015, making it a criminal offence to buy, sell or deal in vape products under 18.

EU vape age limit

The EU doesn’t have a mandatory age limit for vaping, with EU member states allowed to set domestic rules for substance control.

In many EU member states, there is no legal age requirement for vaping or smoking, but there are age requirements for selling vaping products. In Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands, that age limit is 18.

US vape age limit

The US restricts the sale of e-cigarettes, vape hardware and liquids under federal law, with the standard law restricting products to those under 21.

Some states – including Illinois, New York, California, Texas, and the District of Columbia –increased the age limit to 21 from 18 before the US introduced new feral vape laws in all states, which came into effect in December 2019.

Are there any signs of age limit changes?

The UK has not expressed any interest in increasing or reducing the age limit for vaping, so the 18 age limit is here to stay.

However, public support for banning vaping and smoking in under-21s is favored in polls, so the government may change their attitude in the future.

In 2019, the UK government set the objective for England to be smoke-free by 2030, and the recommendations make for exciting reading.

Here’s what the recommendations say on vaping:

“The government must embrace the promotion of vaping as an effective tool to help people to quit smoking tobacco. We know vapes are neither a ‘silver bullet’ nor totally risk-free, but the alternative is far worse.”

In other words, vaping is here to stay!

In the US, anti-smoking groups successfully campaigned for a minimum 21 age limit under federal law, which came into force for all states in 2019. This demonstrates that the puck is skating towards a higher age limit.

The EU has weak smoke-free legislation, and vaping is not socially looked down on, although selling vaping products to those under 18 is prohibited. As in the UK, those who sell vapes to underage people are liable to prosecution.

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