The British government intends to reverse course from a decade of progressive vaping policy and micromanage the vape market with new product restrictions. The government also plans to carry out its previously announced “smokefree generation” plan to ban cigarette sales to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced today the government’s intention to ban disposable vapes, restrict e-liquid flavors, impose “plain packaging” rules, and limit how products can be displayed in stores. The government also plans to include nicotine-free vape products in its vaping regulations.
“As Prime Minister,” Sunak said in a press release, “I have an obligation to do what I think is the right thing 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.”
The proposed ban on disposable vapes might seem like a straightforward solution to curbing the rise in youth vaping, but there are significant challenges to making a ban work. These products are widely used – and not just by young people who never smoked.https://t.co/JVn1RrHELF
— Sarah Jackson (@DrSarahEJackson) January 29, 2024
A Cancer Research UK-funded study published last week by researchers from University College London found that a disposable vape ban would affect 2.6 million adults, and “could have substantial unintended consequences for people who smoke.” A disposable ban is also opposed by the largest British anti-smoking organization, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
The proposed actions will be included in new legislation that will require approval from the UK Parliament, which means consumers and businesses can contact their Members of Parliament now to express opposition. Scotland and Wales will also introduce legislation to ban disposable vapes.
The government’s plan is to vote on the smokefree generation proposal first, and then introduce a separate bill that would include the vaping product restrictions, which will be subject to further consultation.
The government also reportedly intends to tax vaping products for the first time. The vape tax, according to news reports, will be announced when the government’s budget is released March 6. Research shows that taxes on vaping products lead to increased cigarette sales.
🗣️ “The solution to the problem of children illegally buying often illegal vapes… is to enforce the laws that already exist.”
— IEA (@iealondon) January 29, 2024
The policy changes were presented as a response to an increase in youth vaping, which anti-vaping interests have blamed on disposable products and flavors that have been popular among adult vapers for well over a decade. News reports indicate the government could move to ban flavors other than tobacco, menthol, mint and “fruit.”
Sunak’s government has itself adopted the language of prohibitionist tobacco control organizations, citing concerns over “child-appealing” packaging, and flavors “which are specifically marketed at children.”
“It is important to recognize that fruit, dessert and candy flavours are the most popular category among adult vapers, with more than half of all vapers choosing them,” wrote consumer advocacy group the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) in a response to the government announcement. “Removing these flavours will weaken the appeal of vapes for smokers considering switching, while enforcing plain packaging will cement the already widespread incorrect assumption amongst the public that vaping is as or more harmful than smoking.”