An expected ban on single-use vapes across the UK has been welcomed by councils and leading doctors, amid concern from some that it could lead to a “flood” of illegal products entering the market.
Ministers are reportedly preparing to stop the sale of disposable e-cigarettes as fears grow about their environment impactand the health risks they pose to the large number of teenagers taking up the habit.
An announcement from the government is expected soon after it concluded that single-use vapes are aimed at children.
David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said the association was “very pleased” about a proposed ban.
He said: “Single-use vapes blight our streets as litter, are a hazard in our bin lorries, are expensive and difficult to deal with in our recycling centres. It is important that a ban is brought in at pace. Disposable vapes are an inherently unsustainable product.”
Steve Turner, registrar for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, agreed. He said his colleagues across the British Isles were “really worried” about young people vaping and the fact it was an “effective entry into nicotine addiction and smoking”.
He added that the situation was “a public health disaster” and that “children should not be becoming addicted to nicotine”. Turner said if not a ban then e-cigarettes should be concealed in shops and “sold under the same conditions that all other nicotine products are.”
However, Scott Butler, executive director at Material Focus, an environmental charity, is worried that a ban could lead to “hard to control illegal sales and an established illegal vape market”. He said: “If the legitimate industry is banned, then there will be no mechanism to deal with all the operational challenges and costs of illegally sold vapes which have the same challenges”.
Last week research by the not-for-profit organisation Material Focus found that 5m single-use vapes are being thrown away in the UK every week, a fourfold increase on 2022. Butler said that if the market went underground there would be no way to encourage retailers to recycle these products.
Illegal vapes are already a major issue. In June the Guardian revealed that millions of illegal and potentially harmful vapes have been seized in the last three years with trading standards warning this is the “tip of the iceberg”.
Andrej Kuttruf, chief executive of the ape shop Evapo, said a ban would be “bad news for all smokers”. Instead there should be more “controls and limits” around “access for kids” and a proper licensing scheme to dictate who can sell vapes.
“Right now there is no enforcement at all, and that is why children are buying them, no one is policing them,” he said. “The government let it get completely out of control and a knee-jerk reaction of a ban will help the black market to thrive and products will be unregulated and uncontrolled.”
John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), said it was important to point out that this is “about a consultation” and “that no decisions have been made on the future of disposable vapes”.
He said that “a ban is not the answer”, adding: “Disposables have proved to be highly effective in helping smokers quit their habits.”
He also noted that vape bans “lead to black markets in the sale of such products and increased smoking rates, putting smokers and vapers at significantly more risk of harm across the world.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are concerned about the rise in youth vaping and the environmental impacts of disposable vapes. That is why we launched a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products – and explore where the government can go further. We will set out our response in due course.”