At 10.30pm on Sunday 28th January, the UK government announced that disposable vapes will be banned. Their reasons focus on tackling rises in youth vaping, and follow on from its consultation on smoking and vaping from October 2023.
Rogue retailers, smugglers, and tobacco company shareholders will be rubbing their hands together in glee over the news today that disposable vapes are set to be banned in the UK.
The new bill intends to outlaw disposables entirely, and also seeks to give the government the power to clamp down on the way that vapes are marketed, which could lead to plain packaging, restrictions on flavours, and rules around the display of vape products in shops.
We wholeheartedly agree that children shouldn’t have access to vaping, but banning disposables is not the way to go about it. This counterproductive legislation will put children at greater risk by turbo-charging the black market and, in turn, making it easier for them to access illicit and potentially dangerous vapes. It is already illegal to sell vapes to minors, but the enforcement of the law is woeful.
We believe that this is a shortsighted move, and a cynical vote grab, that could see millions of adult vapers left without the legitimate products that keep them from going back to smoking.
When will disposable vapes be banned?
The honest answer at this point is that we don’t know. It all depends on the scope of the bill, and whether they intend to push it through as an amendment to existing legislation (such as environmental), or if it is decided that a new bill is required.
We will be closely monitoring the progress of the bill, once it is published, and we will keep you updated.
Can you still buy legitimate disposable vapes in the UK?
Although the headlines would have you believe that the ban is imminent, until the bill is actually passed into law we will still be able to legally sell them to you.
Even if/when the legislation is passed, the chances are that legitimate retailers will be given a sell-through period to clear the shelves of existing stock.
We’ve been closely following all of the interviews with ministers today, and can glean from their responses that you will likely be able to buy legitimate disposable vapes in the UK until early 2025.
"you will likely be able to buy legitimate disposable vapes in the UK until early 2025."
Why are disposable vapes being banned?
In the Prime Minister’s announcement, tackling the rise in youth vaping and protecting children’s health is cited as the key motivator for the ban on disposables.
The other issue being mentioned, albeit not nearly as emotively, is the growing concern over the impact of single-use vapes on the environment.
We discussed both of these issues last year when the Local Government Association (LGA) first called upon the government for an outright ban on the manufacture and sale of disposables, and concluded that neither issue warrants (or would benefit from) banning the products.
There are already laws in place that make it illegal to sell vapes to anyone under the age of 18. It is the disgraceful lack of enforcement of these laws that has led to this issue, not the products themselves. As responsible vaping retailers, we already have strict age verification processes in place. A ban will only serve to stop us helping adult smokers quit and stay quit; it will not stop rogue retailers from selling illegal disposables to children.
The environmental issue is an important one, and one that we take extremely seriously. Which is why we encourage our customers to recycle vaping products responsibly, and switch to more environmentally friendly vapes once they know that vaping is the right way for them to stay off combustible tobacco products.
The government would be better advised to offer more support and funding to improve recycling schemes. Banning disposables won’t remove them from our streets and landfill. The surge in black market products that will inevitably follow this ban will generate as much, or even more, single-use waste.
How will a disposable vape ban be enforced?
Within the announcement, the government promised £30m of new funding every year to “bolster enforcement agencies - including Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and trading standards - to implement these measures and stamp out opportunities for criminals.”
While this sounds like action is being taken, in actual fact it won’t go anywhere near far enough to provide the levels of enforcement required to act as a deterrent for illicit disposable vape sales.
Over a decade of cuts to trading standards alone has seen their budgets cut by 50%, meaning that a 30m increase across both trading standards and Border Force won’t scratch the surface.
Millions of illegal, potentially harmful, vapes have been seized in the last three years; yet Kate Pike, the lead officer at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, warned last year that the figures are likely to be the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of how many non-compliant vapes are being sold in UK shops.
She said: “I get calls from colleagues at the port almost every day – it feels like there is a tsunami. They are mainly coming from China.”
We will keep you informed about the disposable vape ban
The news of this ban on disposables, as well as the potential plans to regulate the flavours that adult vapers rely on to stay off the cigs, has struck a blow to all responsible vaping advocates and retailers.
As full members of the UKVIA, we lobby for sensible restrictions, and push ways that we as an industry could help the government. They have proposed developing a vape retailer and distributor licensing scheme to make it harder for the rogue traders to get away with underage and illicit sales. This is being presented to parliamentarians in February and will raise £50m or more to put towards Trading Standards to increase enforcement without any cost to the taxpayer.
The government’s proposals will affect millions of former smokers, which will undoubtedly lead to a public health catastrophe. We will continue to monitor the development of this bill, and will update you with all relevant news. In the meantime, we would urge you to write to your MP, and tell them how these draconian measures will impact your life.
We're here to help you quit smoking for good
At Vape UK, we pride ourselves on being responsible vaping advocates. We keep up to date with all of the latest news and studies; we supply high quality TPD compliant vaping products; and we are always on hand to offer helpful and honest advice about vaping. Please get in touch if you have any questions for our team.