UK Disposable Vape Ban and How it Will Affect Consumers?

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UK Disposable Vape Ban and How it Will Affect Consumers?

Disposable vapes banned in the UK

Despite it being illegal to sell vapes to individuals under the age of 18, around 9% of teens aged between 11 and 15 claim to use vapes in the UK. The alarming rise in the use of disposable vapes by youngsters has resulted in the UK government taking swift action by banning the use of disposable vapes. The ban is also extended to the companies that produce disposable vapes and will include the production of vapes designed to appeal to children. Manufacturers who produce vape products with bright, vibrant packaging will also be required to adopt plain packaging in the hopes of making them less tempting to children. 

In the UK, the current vaping industry is worth a whopping £1.2 billion, and disposable vapes take the lion’s share of this market with a total of £973 million in disposable vape sales. Considering the popularity of disposable vapes in the UK, this recent ban is without a doubt going to take a bite out of the revenue generated by disposable vape sales, at least, in the UK. 


What’s Behind the UK Ban?

So, what's behind the push to ban disposable vapes? It all boils down to the alarming surge in youth vaping over recent years. Bright packaging and sugary flavours seem to beckon to children (surprise!), making it worryingly easy for them to obtain these throwaway vaping kits. 

Recent data from ASH reveals a nearly twofold increase in vaping among minors in just two years, with a staggering 69% of 11 to 17-year-olds admitting to using disposables. Reacting to the public concern that the higher spot fines that are already in place on stores that are caught selling vapes to underage children are not having the desired impact, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to outlaw disposable vapes altogether, and tighten regulations on packaging, advertising, and flavours.


Environmental Implications of the UK Vape Ban

The environmental fallout is another key driver of the ban. An eye-popping five million disposable vapes hit the trash every week, quadrupling the 2022 figures. Only a paltry 17% of vapers claim to recycle their disposables. 

To add to the environmental toll, Greenpeace reports over 40 tonnes of lithium disposable batteries were dumped in 2023, which is enough to power around 5,000 electric cars. While this may seem like a substantial figure, it pales in comparison to the over 16 million electric vehicles already cruising UK roads. Nevertheless, the ban seeks to curb the flow of these non-biodegradable items into landfills and waterways. 


The Flavours Being Banned

On the flavour front, the debate rages on. Several countries have already implemented flavour bans, and the UK government is mulling over similar restrictions. Sweet treats like desserts and candies are in the firing line, potentially leaving only a limited selection of fruit, tobacco, and menthol flavours. 

While the rationale behind the flavour ban centres on their allure to teenagers, there's a counterargument that flavours play a vital role in helping smokers transition to vaping. Survey data also suggests that nearly one-third of vapers would revert to smoking if sweet e-liquid flavours were outlawed, with 15% considering turning to the black market for their fix. This underscores the risk of driving consumers toward unsafe products if legitimate vaping options are curtailed.


When’s the Ban Expected?

As for the timeline, there's no firm date set for the ban's implementation. Parliament must first pass the bill, a step expected to be endorsed by both the Conservative and Labour parties. The government tentatively aims to enshrine the ban in law by late 2024, with enforcement anticipated by early 2025. A six-month transition period will allow the industry and retailers to adjust to the new regulations, meaning disposable vapes could vanish from shelves around mid-2025.


Brass Tacks

One major challenge lies in tackling the thriving black market for single-use vapes, which stands to flourish further once legitimate devices are banned. To combat youth access, robust support for Trading Standards teams is essential to crack down on unscrupulous vendors peddling disposable vapes to minors.

It goes without saying that the major regulatory steps will have far-reaching consequences on the overall vape industry, including the consumers. The Catch-22 for the UK government is that while the ban on disposable vapes is geared towards keeping youth from using vapes, it will also put all those who are currently using vapes to quit smoking at risk of a true relapse. 

While not completely harmless, vaping is considered less harmful as compared to smoking, which will leave adult ex-smokers with no choice but to look towards other smoking cessation techniques to help them quit smoking. According to the latest research, the ban on vapes could have an indirect impact on every 1 in 8 adults aged between 18 to 24 in the UK. 


What About Alternatives?

While the talks on banning the use of disposable vapes in the UK have been welcomed by parents, and rightly so, some question the move by pointing out some legitimate concerns for ex-smokers who are using vapes as an alternative. 

So, could there be other ways to keep children under the age of 18 safe from disposable vapes? Well, researchers have proposed several strategies to enhance the regulation of disposable vapes in the UK with minimal unintended consequences, such as relapse among former smokers.

They have suggested banning the promotion of e-cigarettes in retail stores and ensuring that these products are kept out of sight and reach of children. Furthermore, implementing an excise tax on disposable vapes to increase their price to match that of the cheapest reusable e-cigarettes was recommended. 

Since defining disposable vapes might pose challenges, the researchers proposed establishing a minimum unit price as a more straightforward approach to curbing their affordability, which could be swiftly enacted.


Ending Note

While vaping is viewed by many as an alternative to smoking and is being marketed as a useful tool for helping smokers quit, its use amongst children should not be acceptable, especially since the long-term impacts of using disposable vapes are yet not fully known or understood by experts. Additionally, children should never vape - Period. This is mainly because withdrawal from vaping results in a few side effects such as headaches, trouble concentrating, and anxiety. With other countries already cracking down on the use of vapes, the recent stance taken by the UK government was expected. However, stringent quality control policies will need to be implemented and enforced regarding the use of disposable vapes, for the ban to be successful in the UK.


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