The vaping industry has lashed out at comments made by Public Health Minister Andrea Leadsom over a retailer licensing scheme for the sector.

At the Tobacco & Vapes Bill Committee which has been considering evidence in relation to clauses that make up the Bill, Leadsom said that she will not consider a licensing scheme for vape retailers as she believed it would lead to further underage sales.She said: “I am grateful to the hon. Lady (Mary Glindon MP) for giving me the chance to give my personal opinion on licensing. It is a license for the vaping industry to get rid of the competition, make loads more money and focus even more on addicting children to vapes. It is the most cynical of all the cynical proposals I have seen. I am literally in no way in support of a licensing regime. I see lots of nods around the room; I hope that my personal view is clear and am glad that it seems to be shared by a number of hon. Members.”

In response to Leadsom’s comments, UKVIA director general John Dunne said the industry was feeling “consternation and anger”.

“We need to take action to protect children from accessing vapes sold by unscrupulous retailers, as well as by inappropriate retailers such as hairdressers, barber shops and sweet shops. Enforcement of the laws, which are in place to protect young people from vaping, has failed to date due to lack of investment by the Government, so the only way to deal with the matter once and for all is to equip Trading Standards with the resources to police retailers. Our licensing scheme is designed to raise £50m+ for greater enforcement of the regulations, and more through fines of up to £10,000 for retailers and £100,000 for distributors.”

He called the Minister’s comments “inappropriate”.

“As to the Minister’s comments on the licensing scheme they are false and completely inappropriate,” added Dunne. “They are disrespectful to the legitimate independent vaping industry that wants to do the right thing, and have invested their life savings in helping save the lives of smokers. Indeed, the inspiration behind many of these independent vaping businesses has been personal loss through smoking.

“Contrary to the Minister’s ludicrous and unfounded statement that the vaping sector wants to use the licensing scheme to get rid of the competition (which we can only assume is a reference to the NRT market controlled by the pharma sector) and to make more money; it wants to eradicate the black market which is our greatest competition and represents most risk to children and adults; and we’re willing to bankroll it to the tune of £50m+.”

The UKVIA has written to the PM to challenge the inappropriateness of the Minister’s comments and to request an apology. The UKVIA has already written to the PM and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, accusing the government of excluding members of the vaping community and other smoking cessation experts from giving evidence to MPs on the Bill.