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Tories defend £350K vaping boss donation

  1. By Emaan Warraich

  2. BBC News

8 September 2023

Image source, Getty Images

The Conservatives have defended accepting a donation from the chief executive of a company accused of marketing vapes to children.

They accepted a £350,000 donation from Supreme 8 Limited in May, records show.

The boss of Supreme 8 is Sandy Chadha, who is also the chief executive of Supreme PLC, which markets vapes.

Labour says vapes sold by Supreme – such as Blue Razz Lemonade, Strawberry Mousse and Rainbow Burst – are clearly aimed at children.

The legal age to purchase and use a vape is 18.

A spokesperson for Supreme PLC said: “Supreme PLC or its subsidiaries does not and has not made political donations.

“We can however confirm that Sandy Chadha, Group CEO of Supreme PLC has, historically, donated funds to the Conservative Party.

“These donations are unrelated to Supreme PLC, of which Mr Chadha is a shareholder, and were funded directly by Mr Chadha.”

Among the vaping products Supreme distributes for wholesale are Elf Bar, which has been criticised for marketing vapes to young people.

However, Elf Bar products do contain a warning indicating that “it is forbidden to sell this product to children”.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: “We’re sleepwalking into a new generation of children getting hooked on nicotine. Yet the Tories put lining their own pockets ahead of protecting children’s health.

“Labour will come down like a ton of bricks on those peddling vapes to kids. We will ban the marketing and branding of vapes to children and give every child a healthy start to life.”

Labour shadow children’s minister Helen Hayes this week sought to introduce a law banning the marketing of vapes to children, telling MPs it is not necessary to use brightly-coloured branding to sell a smoking cessation product.

A Tory spokesperson said: “We are not anti-vaping. It is one of the most effective ways to help people quit and smoking and our government encourages this switch.

“However, this government is taking meaningful steps to tackle vendors who sell vapes to children.

“This includes setting up an Illicit Vape Enforcement Squad, closing loopholes on giving out sample vapes, and launching a review into fines for selling these products to under-18s.”

One in five children (11-17 year olds) have tried vaping, figures from the 2023 Action on Smoking and Health survey of young vapers in England, Scotland and Wales suggest.

In May, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “My daughters are 10 and 12, and I don’t want the way vapes are marketed, promoted and sold to be attractive to them. That’s why I am launching a new crackdown today to protect children.”

Prof John Britton, honorary professor at the University of Nottingham, who previously advised the government on its plan to end smoking, said: “It’s inconceivable to say that vaping is safe, it is a balance of risks.

“If you don’t use nicotine in any shape or form, it is madness to start vaping.”

Prof Britton anticipates that in 40 or 50 years’ time, we will start to see people developing lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and other serious lung conditions as a result of their vaping.

The Department of Health and Social Care have said they have regulations in place to discourage underage vaping such as restricting sales of vapes to over 18s only, limiting nicotine content, refill bottle and tank sizes and through advertising restrictions.