During a school visit on Monday (January 29), the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he is taking “strong action” to “stamp out” youth vaping, following a public consultation on the issue in which almost 70 per cent of respondents were in favour of a ban.
It is already illegal to sell vapes to anyone under 18, but evidence shows disposable vapes, which are cheaper and sold in smaller, more colourful packaging than refillable ones, are driving the rise in youth vaping.
The ban on disposable vapes will use powers already in place under the Environmental Protection Act and is expected to come into force early next year.
As well as aiming to make it harder for children to get their hands on vapes, the ban is also aimed at protecting the environment, with disposable e-cigarettes containing precious metals which can be re-used but are instead ending up in landfill.
Under the new plans, powers will also be introduced to restrict flavours which are specifically marketed at children, and ensure that manufacturers produce plainer packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of children’s sight.
Blackburn vaping company Totally Wicked said it supports the Government’s aim of reducing youth vaping, but said the ban is not beneficial for those using vapes to quit smoking.
A spokesperson said: “We support the Government’s aim of reducing youth vaping, while continuing to encourage adult smokers to move to a much safer alternative.
“Unfortunately prohibition is seldom, if ever, the answer to issues of public behaviour.
“While we hope this proposal might have the desired effect, the actual outcome is likely to have a number of unintended consequences.
“The proposed ban on disposable vapes purportedly aims to reduce youth uptake of vaping. While the aim is praiseworthy, it can only be achieved with effective enforcement.
“In addition, because many adults that would otherwise be smoking use disposable vapes, it also risks the unintended consequence of them returning to smoking.”
Totally Wicked, which appeared in parliament to discuss single-use vapes last year, agreed the environmental concerns surrounding single-use vapes need to be addressed.
A spokesperson said: “They are far from the most environmentally friendly or cost-effective way of vaping.
“From Totally Wicked’s perspective, we have had more environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use disposable vapes available to our customers for many years now.
“We have encouraged people shopping on our website, and in our shops, to explore those alternatives since the beginning of the disposable vapes upsurge in 2022.”
Mr Sunak said the rise in vaping among children is worrying, adding: “Children shouldn’t be vaping, we don’t want them to get addicted.
“We still don’t understand the full long-term health impacts of vaping, so it is right we take strong action to stamp this out.”
New £100 fines will also be brought in for shops in England and Wales which sell vapes illegally to children.
Trading Standards officers will be given powers to act “on the spot” to tackle under-age tobacco and vape sales. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose.
Vaping alternatives, such as nicotine pouches, will also be banned for children.
Some retailers are concerned that banning disposable vapes in the UK will fuel the illicit market.
Muntazir Dipoti, the national president of the Federation of the Independent Retailers, said: “An outright ban will simply send youngsters towards unorthodox and illicit sources where there is no compliance to tobacco and vaping laws, while the products they peddle are likely to contain dangerous and illegal levels of toxic chemicals.
“Disposable vapes are usually more affordable and, as such, are a bigger incentive for adult smokers to change to vapes.
“To clamp down on young people vaping, the Government needed to make more financial resources available for educational campaigns, while more enforcement activity was required, especially at borders to prevent counterfeit products entering the market.
“Vape retailers are responsible and offer a recycling option, but the government should be looking at making available more ways to safely recycle disposable vapes.”