How Old Do You Have to Be to Vape in the UK?

How Old Do You Have to Be to Vape in the UK?

July 02, 2023

Vaping is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK, but several points regarding age limits and nicotine percentages remain confusing. Vaping laws have seen plenty of flux over the past few years as the government grapples with this relatively new technology and its booming usage.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy a Vape in the UK?

The short answer: you have to be 18 years old to buy a vape in the UK.

Concerns regarding youth vaping have been on the rise. The government has recently taken steps to close a loophole allowing free samples to be given to children. The change is happening after recent figures from the NHS for 2021 revealed that 9% of those aged 11 to 15 used e-cigarettes — an increase from 6% in 2018.

The government also announced that there’d be a review into banning ‘nicotine-free’ vapes being sold to those under 18 years old.

What About 0% Nicotine Vapes?

Vapes with no nicotine lead to one of the major misconceptions surrounding vaping age laws. The percentage of nicotine in vape juice has absolutely no bearing on legality. You must be 18 to purchase 0% nicotine vapes or liquids, as the government considers them vape accessories. 

Vaping Laws vs. Cigarette Laws in the UK

Before 2007, the legal age for purchasing cigarettes in the UK was 16, which was raised to 18 in October 2007, meaning vape and cigarette laws are now perfectly in line. Fines and other punishments are essentially the same now, as the government has sought to marry the regulations under a single umbrella. 

Considering how much we know about the separate dangers, this might seem unfair to some. However, with vapes and cigarettes classed as age-restricted items, anybody selling them must tread carefully.

Why Is There a Vaping Age Limit?

While it's now widely accepted that vaping is much less harmful than smoking, including because it doesn't produce tar or carbon monoxide, they’re certainly not harmless.

It's a great way of weaning yourself off cigarettes, but vaping can still be addictive, so it comes with an age limit. We must consider that young bodies haven’t yet fully matured and developed, and it's unclear what effect vaping can have on minors over many years.

As a society, we generally try to set age limits for products considered harmful in one way or another, and vaping is no exception. In the UK, once you are 18, you can legally make the choice for yourself. 

How Are the UK’s Rules on Vaping Different From Other Countries?

Whether or not the UK’s rules differ depends on which countries you want to compare the UK to. More than 40 countries worldwide have completely banned vaping, including Brazil, India, and Argentina.

A few of these, such as Australia and Japan, don't have bans per se in place, but it's practically impossible to import or sell vape products, meaning the ban is almost by proxy. 

Then we have the rest of the world, where vaping is legal but usually has restrictions. Places where this is the case include the UK, the U.S., Canada, China, and almost all of Europe. 

If we look at specific age laws, the UK is similar to many countries in choosing 18 as its benchmark. In the United States, a person must be 21; in Canada, a person must be 19 in certain provinces and 18 in others. 

It's also worth highlighting that things are constantly changing worldwide. Switzerland overturned its ban on vaping in 2018, while in the U.S., the federal government increased the age limit from 18 to 21 in December 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Legally Buy a Vape at 16 in the UK?

No, you can't legally buy a vape at 16 years old in the UK. You must be 18 or older to legally purchase a vape, nicotine, and 0% nicotine products in the UK. 

As of May 2023, the government announced there would be a review into banning selling nicotine-free vapes to under-18s and giving them away for free.

Final Thoughts

The vaping phenomenon we're experiencing arrived like a train, and it's taken some time for clear legislation and laws to follow. While there may have been plenty of what-ifs and loopholes in the past, most of those are now closed, and we finally have a comprehensive understanding of the age limits associated with vaping. 

For those over 18 who enjoy vaping, RELX offers various vapes and e-liquids to suit every style and taste. There’s something for every vaper available in our selection, where we provide a wide range of innovative and high-quality products to all sorts of vapers.

Don’t forget to bookmark our blog for tips and information regarding vaping to stay up-to-date!

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