A worrying UK trend has led the government to decide to ban disposable vapes boldly.
In a decisive move, the UK government announced the prohibition of disposable vapes on Monday, 29 January, during Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to a school.
This bold step is part of a comprehensive strategy to address the worrying surge in vaping among young people and safeguard children’s health.
Recent statistics reveal a troubling trend in which vaping among children has tripled in the past three years. Particularly alarming are figures which show that 9 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds are now using vapes.
The long-term health effects of vaping remain uncertain, and the addictive nature of nicotine poses significant risks, including anxiety and concentration issues during withdrawal. Although vaping aids adults in quitting smoking, its use by children is strongly discouraged.
Disposable vapes have significantly contributed to the spike in youth vaping, with their use by 11 to 17-year-olds soaring nearly ninefold in just two years.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak commented: ‘The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown, and the nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a valuable tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable.
‘As Prime Minister, I must do what I think is right for our country in the long term. That is why I am taking bold action to ban disposable vapes – which have driven the rise in youth vaping – and bring forward new powers to restrict vape flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops.’
Stricter regulations and fines
The government’s response includes introducing new regulations to limit child-targeted vape flavours and ensure manufacturers introduce plainer, less visually appealing packaging.
Additionally, it will reposition vapes in shops, distancing them from children’s view and away from appealing products like sweets.
Shops in England and Wales will face stiffer fines for illicit vape sales to children, complemented by on-the-spot enforcement by trading standards officers. This builds an existing maximum fine of £2,500 by local authorities.
Nicotine alternatives are also restricted
In tandem, the government will outlaw nicotine alternatives like nicotine pouches, which have become popular among children.
These measures are part of the UK’s commitment to creating the first smoke-free generation, with a new law banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.
Beyond health concerns, the ban is expected to impact the environment positively. Approximately five million disposable vapes are discarded weekly, equating to the lithium batteries of 5,000 electric vehicles annually.
‘Not only are disposable vapes often targeted, unacceptably, at children – they also represent a huge and growing stream of hard-to-recycle waste, with nearly five million thrown away every week,’ stated Environment Secretary Steve Barclay.
Public and expert support
The decision has garnered widespread support. Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins remarked, ‘Smoking is still the single most significant preventable cause of death in England. Almost every minute of every day, someone is admitted to a hospital with a smoking-related disease. And it costs society £17 billion each year – putting a significant burden on our NHS.
‘That’s why we are driving the way forward through our smoke-free generation plan, which will prevent our children from starting this dangerous habit.
‘The health advice is clear: vapes should only ever be used as a tool to quit smoking. But we are committed to doing more to protect our children from illicit underage vaping, and by banning disposable vapes, we’re preventing children from becoming hooked for life.’
Health Minister Andrea Leadsom emphasized, ‘We are amid a worrying rise in young people vaping. I want to stop youth vaping in its tracks – and a ban on disposable vapes is central to that.’
The path forward
To reinforce these efforts, £30 million will be allocated annually to enforcement agencies like Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and Trading Standards.
This funding aims to implement these measures effectively and curb criminal opportunities in the tobacco trade, which costs the UK economy an estimated £2.8 billion in lost revenue yearly.
This historic decision follows a 10-week public consultation on creating a smoke-free generation and tackling youth vaping. Over 25,000 responses were analyzed, laying the groundwork for upcoming legislation to be introduced in Parliament soon.
Although many residents regard the decision as pathetic, thinking it will make no difference.
In Yeovil Somerset, adult vaper John Williams feels the new law is victimizing him. He said:
‘ I’m a long-distance lorry driver, I used to smoke 60 fags a day, and I got off them via vapes; I use the disposable ones as they are far more convenient when driving; I don’t want to be pulling over to refill! This pathetic idea is victimizing adults; the simple option was to fine shop owners who sell to kids; large fines would solve the problem, like a thousand pounds!’ he stormed.
Meanwhile, a vape shop owner in Yeovil said: ‘ Many of my adult customers don’t like the faff of refilling; they are now being penalised whilst we could lose trade; one customer has stated he will give up rather than give into the government, all that’s going to happen is a black market will be created for disposables from where kids will buy them’ he said.