In a bid to curb the alarming increase in youth vaping, the UK government has announced plans to implement a ban on disposable vapes.
The move is part of a broader strategy aimed at addressing the rising number of young individuals taking up vaping. Alongside the ban, the government will introduce measures to prevent the marketing of vapes to children and target under-age sales. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has assured adult smokers attempting to quit that alternatives like vapes will still be accessible under these proposals.
Disposable vapes, often sold in smaller, more colorful packaging than their refillable counterparts, have been identified as a "key driver" behind the surge in youth vaping. Figures from the Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) charity reveal that 7.6% of 11 to 17-year-olds in the UK now vape regularly or occasionally, up from 4.1% in 2020.
While acknowledging the role of vapes in assisting millions of adults in quitting smoking, the government aims to strike a balance by restricting access for children. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak emphasized the need for "strong action" to eradicate vaping in children, citing concerns about addiction and the unknown long-term health impacts.
The proposed changes include powers to prevent the sale of refillable vapes in flavors marketed at children and requirements for plainer, less appealing packaging. Shops may be mandated to display refillable vapes out of sight of children, away from other products like sweets. A public consultation will determine which flavors should be banned, and fines will be introduced for shops caught selling vapes illegally to children.
Disposable vaping is bad for the environment. The ban extends to vaping alternatives like nicotine pouches, small pouches releasing nicotine without containing tobacco. While currently legally sold to under-18s, these pouches will be banned for children.
The UK Vaping Industry Association expressed dismay, stating that disposable vapes played a vital role in helping adults quit smoking. The association cautioned against potential black market risks, describing the proposals as a "desperate attempt by the government to sacrifice vapers for votes."
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health supported the government's goal of creating a "smoke-free generation," emphasizing the potential to reduce preventable diseases among young people.
Westminster is keen on protecting children. The UK joins a group of countries planning to ban disposable vapes, including Australia, France, Germany, and New Zealand. While New Zealand has fully implemented such measures, there are calls in some quarters for more extensive actions, such as a tax on e-cigarettes to align them with tobacco.
As the UK government takes decisive steps to ban disposable vapes and address youth vaping, the challenge lies in finding a balance between protecting children's health and recognizing the role of vapes in smoking cessation for adults. The proposed ban, along with additional regulations, reflects an evolving landscape where health and well-being are prioritized, but industry players express concerns about potential unintended consequences. Striking the right balance will be crucial as the government moves forward to implement these measures and shape the future of vaping in the UK.