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Sharp increase in new vape shops in the UK | Business News

More than 230 independent vape shops opened across the UK last year, new figures have revealed.

It represents a sharp increase from the 61 new stores which opened in 2022, and a net fall of 23 in 2021, according to a survey of retail areas by the Local Data Company (LDC).

The rise comes amid government plans for new restrictions on vaping due to concerns about the impact of the devices on children and the environment.

The LDC said 233 independent vape outlets opened in 2023, bringing the total across the UK to 3,573.

The figures relate to specialist stores only and do not include corner shops, Post Office branches, newsagents and other outlets that stock vaping devices and accessories.

It comes amid a boom in vaping products in the UK, with growth in value sales of £897m in 2023, according to market researcher NIQ and trade magazine The Grocer.

But there are concerns about the impact of disposable vapes on the environment, along with worries about their use among young people, despite a ban on sales to under-18s.

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The number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled, according to Action on Smoking and Health. The charity estimates one in five of those aged between 11 and 17 have tried vaping.

Last year, the government unveiled plans to introduce tighter restrictions on smoking and vaping, with a consultation currently ongoing into proposals to potentially ban disposable vapes.

Other plans under consideration include price rises and restricting the flavours and appearance of such products to make them less attractive to children.

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Pupils ‘can’t last a lesson’ without a vape

But the vaping industry argues that their products play a crucial role in helping people to stop smoking.

UK Vaping Industry Association director general John Dunne said: “The independent specialist vape shop in the UK plays an important role in advising smokers how best to make the switch to vapes, and ultimately how to continue their journey to zero nicotine.

“Vapes are proven to be the most effective way for smokers to quit, helping around 50,000 more smokers beat their habit every year and a rise in the number of specialist vape shops reflects a growing demand from smokers wanting to quit a habit that kills over 200 people every day in the UK alone.”

Regulated rail fares in England will increase by up to 5.9% from March | UK News

Regulated rail fares in England will increase by up to 5.9% from 5 March next year, the Department for Transport has announced.

The increase is being imposed to support “crucial investment and the financial stability” of the railway, the department said.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “This is the biggest-ever government intervention in rail fares.

“I’m capping the rise well below inflation to help reduce the impact on passengers.”

Inflation stood at 10.7% in November, under the core consumer prices index measurement, official figures show.

Fares are not being increased in line with inflation, Mr Harper said, because with the impact of higher prices being felt across the UK economy, “we do not want to add to the problem”.

“This is a fair balance between the passengers who use our trains and the taxpayers who help pay for them,” he added.

Regulated fares are overseen by the government following the privatisation of the rails. Most standard and saver return fares and weekly season tickets are regulated fairs.

Season and flexible tickets can be bought in January and February at the current price, ahead of the price hike.

The 5.9% price rise is inline with average earnings growth in July of this year – rather than the retail price index measure of inflation as is customary – to make it “easier on family finances while not overburdening taxpayers”, the department said.

Official figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed average regular pay growth was 6% for the private sector in May to July this year, and 2% for the public sector. Due to inflation the vast majority of workers have suffered a real terms pay cut.

A below inflation rise had been announced in the summer to help travellers cope with the cost of living crisis. The deferred rise, from January to March, was also announced in August.

The fair increase has been described as “brutal” by shadow Secretary of State for Transport Louise Haigh.

“This savage fare hike will be a sick joke for millions reliant on crumbling services. People up and down this country are paying the price for twelve years of Tory failure,” she said.

Industrial action has been taking place across the rail network for the past six months as unions seek pay improvements and guarantees over working conditions and jobs. Strikes are set to continue from 6pm on Christmas Eve to 29 December and 3-7 January.

Cost of living crisis: Bank of England set to increase interest rates to levels not seen since 2008 | Business News

The Bank of England is expected to unveil the biggest interest rate rise since the 1980s today.

A hike of 0.75 percentage points is anticipated – pushing the base rate to 3%, levels that have not been seen since 2008.

If confirmed, this could push up mortgage bills for millions of people in the coming months.

Supermarket offers 1p ready meals – cost of living latest

This would also be the eighth time in a row that the Bank of England has hiked interest rates. Less than a year ago, the base rate was just 0.1%.

Earlier this month, the markets had predicted that today’s increase could be one whole percentage point – but sentiment has calmed since the mini-budget was reversed and Liz Truss resigned as prime minister.

The Bank of England is also set to release long-term inflation forecasts, which are expected to show that the cost of living next year will be much higher than its target of 2%.

Official figures released in September showed inflation hit 10.1% – matching a 40-year high seen in July – with much of this increase driven by rising food costs.

Through these rate hikes, the Bank of England is trying to bring core inflation under control, which excludes more volatile elements such as petrol and energy prices.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank have warned they expect the BoE’s forecasts to show “the economic outlook has deteriorated further”, adding: “Conditioned on market pricing, the UK economy will likely fall into a deeper and more prolonged recession.”

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‘Black hole’ in finances explained

Firms face ‘desperately difficult decisions,’ Labour warns

This afternoon, Labour’s shadow chancellor will warn that the latest interest rate rise will have a huge impact on consumers and companies alike.

Speaking at the Anthropy conference in Cornwall, Rachel Reeves will say: “Rising interest rates will mean families with already stretched budgets will be hit by higher mortgage payments. It will mean higher financing costs for businesses.

“For many firms who have had a tough couple of years, this will mean desperately difficult decisions about whether to carry on.

“And it will mean profound implications for growth as demand is sucked out of the economy – and even those firms that are keeping their head above water face difficult decisions about whether to invest or expand.”

Yesterday, a new poll carried about by Ipsos for Sky News revealed that more than a quarter of people have started using their credit cards to buy food – and a fifth have borrowed money to adjust to rising prices this year.

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People putting food bills on credit

US also increases interest rates

The Bank of England’s decision will come a day after America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, also confirmed that it will increase interest rates by 0.75 percentage points.

Wall Street fell sharply when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell suggested the US base rate may need to go even higher than previously thought to tackle the worst inflation seen in decades.

He warned: “It’s very premature, in my view, to think about or to be talking about pausing our rate hikes. We have a ways to go.”

Mr Powell also said that the Federal Reserve would rather make a mistake of taking interest rates too high than easing too quickly, amid fears that a premature pullback could cause inflation to remain.

Huge increase in raw sewage released into UK waterways and sea, data reveals | Climate News

Water companies have pumped raw sewage into Britain’s seas and rivers for more than nine million hours since 2016, new data suggests.

The figure is an increase of 2,553% over five years, according to the Labour Party’s analysis of Environment Agency (EA) data, released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Between 2016 and 2021 water companies discharged sewage into waterways and the sea for a total of 9,427,355 hours, the equivalent of 1,076 years.

It comes as the EA issued warnings to holidaymakers to avoid dozens of beaches across England and Wales this week.

Untreated sewage water was spotted pouring into the sea near Bexhill, East Sussex on Wednesday.

On Saturday, the red flags were removed, meaning the water was officially deemed safe to bathe in.

The beach, however, was near-deserted.

Bexhill-on-sea resident Rachel Streeter
Image:
Bexhill-on-Sea resident Rachel Streeter

‘Filthy, murky, stinks’

Residents of Bexhill told Sky News they find what they describe as “regular sewage dumps” along the coast “devastating”.

Rachel Streeter moved to Bexhill-on-Sea in 2007 to enjoy wild swimming and the beach.

She described seeing faeces floating in the water on swims.

“It’s filthy, murky, and it stinks. Flies actually fly above the surface of the water as well as the sewage. It’s quite obvious,” she said.

Rachel says her friends and family have all become sick after swimming.

Her 79-year-old mother went for a swim last week and fell ill with “a severe bacterial infection”.

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Businesses say they are being affected by it too.

Cliff Meadon, who runs canoeing and kayaking business Epic Life, and says he has lost “thousands” over the last two years due to sewage dumps.

“We’ve had to cancel sessions. We’ve been on the water with groups when we’ve had to come in as the sewage comes out. We’ve seen it,” he said.

In Hastings people were advised not to swim due to a pollution risk this week.

Beaches in Normans Bay as well as Bexhill were closed but have now reopened.

Bexhill-on-sea

‘Heavily diluted’

The sewage dumps were blamed on heavy rainfall.

A spokesperson for Southern Water said: “This week’s heavy rain has fallen on to dry ground that can’t absorb surface run-off, meaning that more rain than usual has overwhelmed our network.

“This led to some overflows – which are used to protect homes, schools, businesses and hospitals from flooding – spilling excess water into the sea.

“These discharges are heavily diluted.

“We are dedicated to significantly reducing storm overflows and are running innovative pilot schemes across the region to reduce the amount of rainfall entering our combined sewers by 2030.”

The Environment Agency declined to comment.

Southern Water was fined £90 million last year for widespread pollution after pleading guilty to more than 6,000 unpermitted sewage discharges.

The discharges were carried out between 2010 and 2015.

Southern argued the sewage dumping had not been deliberate, and after the case said the company was committed to transformation, transparency and cultural change.

Tory Leadership: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss promise to increase scrutiny of Scottish govt as they head to Perth | Politics News

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have both promised to increase scrutiny of the Scottish government if they become the next prime minister – ahead of a visit north of the border.

Ms Truss, who remains the favourite to win the race, said she would get “Scotland’s economy moving” and would give Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) special legal protection, allowing them to be more outspoken as they scrutinise decisions made by the devolved government.

Mr Sunak promised Scottish civil servants would face greater scrutiny from Westminster and UK ministers would be required to be more visible in Scotland.

The pair will face questions from Tory members in Perth on Tuesday following a verbal tussle between Ms Truss and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the past week.

Ms Truss called Ms Sturgeon an “attention seeker”, then the Scottish leader claimed the foreign secretary asked her how to get into Vogue before Ms Truss accused all three devolved nations’ leaders of playing “political games” over independence.

Calling herself a “child of the Union”, Ms Truss said she will deliver for all of the country and “will never talk down Scotland’s potential”, while saying the nation has been “let down by the SNP”.

She added: “I’ll make sure that my government does everything to ensure elected representatives hold the devolved administration to account for its failure to deliver the quality public services, particularly health and education, that Scottish people deserve.

“As prime minister and minister for the Union, I will deliver on my ambitious plan to capitalise on the opportunity we have to turbocharge the growth and business investment required to get Scotland’s economy moving.”

Ms Truss’ campaign team said she would push for a trade deal with India in which a long-standing 150% tariff on whisky exports would be slashed.

She would also alter the Scotland Act to give parliamentary privilege to MSPs to create more “robust questioning” of ministers and increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament to hold the Scottish government to account.

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Nicola Sturgeon is ‘an attention seeker’

Mr Sunak pledged to make it a requirement for Scotland’s most senior civil servant, the permanent secretary to the Scottish government, to attend Westminster’s Public Affairs and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) Select Committee every year – just like the UK government’s cabinet secretary.

He also promised to enforce “consistent reporting of public service performance data across the country” so Westminster could hold the Scottish government accountable for essential public service delivery.

The former chancellor said each nation needs to work together “shoulder to shoulder” as he accused the SNP of being able to “obscure its failures by picking and choosing the data it publishes”.

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Sturgeon is ‘always moaning’

Mr Sunak has been trailing behind in the polls of Tory members, who will decide who their new leader – and therefore prime minister – will be on 5 September.

He was handed a further blow on Monday after a third Conservative MP, former Welsh secretary Alun Cairns, switched allegiance from Mr Sunak to Ms Truss, saying he believes she is best placed to save the union and fears the break-up of the UK would be more likely under Mr Sunak.