Following more than a year of alarming headlines about youth vaping and illegally imported products, the British government may soon prohibit the sale of disposable vapes. News outlets reported today that the UK health department is considering a ban on the popular devices, which make vaping accessible with almost no learning curve.
The Daily Telegraph first reported the news, citing unnamed government sources who say the health department will issue a consultation as early as next week that would include a proposal to ban “single-use” vapes to prevent youth nicotine use. Other news outlets have mostly quoted the Telegraph article.
In an interview this morning, science minister Michelle Donelan would not confirm specifics, but told Sky News the issue is “something that we do need to act on,” and that the Conservative government would be making “further announcements.”
In July, the Local Government Association, which represents local councils across England, called for a ban on disposables, citing concerns over both underage use and environmental impacts.
🗣️ “The idea that we should ban something that’s already restricted to people aged 18 or over because some people under the age of 18 are using it, is ridiculous.”
— IEA (@iealondon) September 12, 2023
The UK has robust recycling infrastructure, including the ability to recycle disposable vapes (which contain lithium ion batteries), but many of the devices are discarded improperly and wind up in landfills. There doesn’t seem to be much discussion of common-sense solutions like placing a reasonable deposit on disposables at the point of purchase, which would make vapes discarded on sidewalks and in pubs valuable commodities.
Calls to ban disposables have been heard in the UK at least since early 2022, when seizures of illegal gray market products began grabbing headlines around the country. The issue gained steam when major disposable manufacturer Elf Bar was cited for selling overfilled disposables.
In April, while announcing an initiative to give away a million vaping starter kits to Britons who smoke, health official Neil O’Brien also voiced concerns over “disposable vapes marketed to kids with…child-friendly flavours.”
At the same time, the government issued a public consultation on youth vaping, asking for evidence on product appearance, how marketing may attract children, and the environmental impact of vaping with an emphasis on disposable vapes, among other topics. According to the Daily Telegraph a new consultation would “hone in” on specific topics, including proposing the disposable ban.
The UK is not alone in its response to disposable vapes. In France, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said last week that a disposable ban would be part of the government’s anti-tobacco strategy. In the United States, the FDA faces increasing pressure to take sweeping action against disposables, especially from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, whose Vuse vapes have struggled to compete with popular flavored disposables in convenience stores.