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How do EU countries want to tackle youth smoking?




Over the past years political representatives and public health experts have been sounding the alarm over the increased number of young people, particularly minors using tobacco based products and e-cigarettes on a regular basis. The European Commission has set standards for e-cigarettes including limits on nicotine content and labels explaining potential health risks. Yet it is still up to the national governments to decide on what approach works best.

While some member states like Bulgaria keep a more liberal stance regarding the sale of tobacco products others like its next-door neighbor Romania take a more serious approach to curb the use of e-cigarettes and tobacco based products by minors. 

Romania recently banned the sale of vapour products to anyone under the age of 18. The law which came into force this March prohibits the explicit sale of various tobacco-related products, including electronic cigarettes, electronic cigarette refills, electronic tobacco heaters and nicotine pouches to minors, subject to fines of up to 100,000 RON (around €20,000). Under the new law, authorities have already imposed fines of over €7,000 to vendors caught breaking the law.

The move was welcomed by representatives of the local tobacco industry. It is a sign of normality to better inform the public and ban the sale of electronic cigarettes and nicotine based products to anyone under the age of 18, Ileana Dumitru, a BAT representative, recounted. 

With the new law in place Romania becomes part of a limited number of EU member states prohibiting the sale to minors of all products with nicotine, but also of electronic cigarettes without nicotine.

According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in 2017 the consumption of conventional cigarettes has decreased among young people in Romania, but the percentage of students aged 13-15 who have tried at least one tobacco product, including heated tobacco products, increased by 7.5% between 2014 and 2017.


In Ireland the sale of vapour products to people under 18 is banned under a new law which came into force late last year. Much like in Romania those under the age of 18 will no longer be allowed to buy vapour products under the new law. Recently published surveys of Irish school-aged children showed that 9% of 12-to-17-year-olds and 15.5% of 15 and 16-year-olds use electronic cigarettes.

The new law stipules that the selling of e-cigarettes to under 18s will carry in Ireland a €4,000 fine and possibly six months in prison. For any subsequent offenses, the fine will be a maximum of €5,000 and up to 12 months in prison.

In the United Kingdom, vendors have been banned since 2015from selling electronic cigarettes or e-liquids to anyone under 18. Also according to the government’s website, adults are also prohibited from buying tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18. 

In France people under the age of 18 cannot buy vapes, and their use is banned in certain public places, including universities and on public transport. French President Emmanuel Macron set out an ambitious plan in 2021 to tackle tobacco and alcohol amongst all 20-year-olds by 2030.

Italy also took a hard stance against young people vaping. The sale of vaping products is illegal to individuals under the age of 18. Vendors must implement stringent age verification processes to ensure compliance with this regulation. 

While the group of countries taking a tougher stance on youth smoking and vaping prevention is gaining speed Brussels has yet to impose an EU-wide ban on the sale of such products to under 18s.

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