Are disposable vapes being banned in the UK?

Disposable vapes became an instant hit, with many vapers adopting them for their convenience and ease of use. This success saw the market explode, with up to 7.7 million sold every week.

The sheer popularity of disposable vapes has ensured that they’re a hot topic within the industry, with issues such as black market vapes, underage vaping and environmental impact coming to the fore.

The UK Government, which describes disposable vapes as ‘those that are not rechargeable, not refillable or that are neither rechargeable nor refillable’, is considering a variety of ways to tackle these challenges, including the possibility of banning disposable vapes in 2024. The government launched a public consultation in October 2023 and the results will help guide policies around vaping in the UK.

When are disposable vapes going to be banned in the UK?
There is currently no firm date for the banning of disposable vapes in the UK, or even confirmation if they will be banned. The proposition is currently under debate and careful consideration is being given to the pros and cons of continuing the sale of disposable vapes.

These include balancing positives, such as the convenience of disposable vapes combined with their utility as a means of smoking cessation, with issues such as environmental factors and concerns around underage vaping.

However, the UK Government’s public consultation includes a range of different proposals in addition to the possibility of restricting the sale of disposable vapes, including:

·Regulating point of sale displays in retail outlets so that vapes are kept out of sight from children and away from products that appeal to them, such as sweets

·Regulating vape packaging and the presentation of vape products, to make sure they’re not targeted to children

·Increasing prices of vapes as a way to discourage younger buyers

The UK is not alone in its desire to address issues around underage vaping. New Zealand ushered in a variety of new regulations around vaping and smoking in June 2023, including measures such as banning the opening of vaping shops in the immediate vicinity of schools. The NZ health ministry also introduced policies around the advertisement of flavours. Ireland, Germany and France are all among EU member states also currently considering actions around the restriction or banning of disposable vapes.

The rationale behind calls for a vape ban
Convenient, affordable and lightweight, disposable vapes are incredibly popular. In some ways, they are a victim of their own success, as the high pick-up numbers have led to questions around their roles in encouraging underage vaping as well as examinations of their environmental impact.

Underage vaping
Concerns around underage vaping is a big driving factor in the discussions around a potential ban of disposable vapes. There are a number of potential legislations that could be put in place to mitigate the attraction of vaping to younger consumers, including tighter restrictions around sales and the regulation of certain designs or flavours.

In October 2023, the UK Government announced plans to introduce a law which will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1st January 2009, it is possible that this could be extended to including vaping products. The Government is also considering the possibility that certain flavours may appeal to younger people.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that restricting flavours may also impact on the purchases of adults who use vaping as a way to quit smoking – and with vapes offering the highest chance for quitting smoking, it’s something that must be given careful consideration. A recent survey by a member of the IBVTA (Independent British Vape Trade Association) found that 72% of ex-smokers who have quit in the past 5 years, and 56% of regular smokers, believe that disposable vapes are helpful in assisting smokers in reducing their smoking levels.

Environmental concerns
In July 2023, the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, called for a ban on disposable vapes, citing environmental grounds. It claimed that single-use vapes, such as Elf bars and Lost Mary, were a hazard for waste and litter collection. This is due to the fact that the majority of single-use vapes are designed as single units, which makes it difficult or impossible for the battery to be removed and recycled. The lithium batteries commonly used in disposable vapes can become flammable if crushed, damaged or overheated.

With 1.3 million vapes being thrown away every week, their popularity is clear to see. While Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board called for a ban as a way to reduce littering, he also said: “Councils are not anti-vapes, which are shown to be less harmful than smoking and have a place as a tool to use in smoking cessation.”

The poor example set by Australia’s vape ban
Selling nicotine-containing vapes has been illegal in Australia since 2021, and they are instead provided through prescriptions to help users quit smoking and manage their nicotine dependence. However, retailers throughout Australia have continued to sell vaping products illegally since with minimal repercussions.

In an attempt to tackle this, the Australian Government made it illegal to import any disposable vapes into the country as of January 1st 2024. Within just one week it was clear that this too has not been a success. The black market for disposable vapes in Australia has boomed, and they have remained easily accessible. One Daily Mail reporter spotted at least 20 locations selling illegal vaping products, and found that the main consequences of the new law is a significant price hike in vapes due to the increased risks in importing and selling them, and a disregard for age verification during their sale.

Brain Marlow, Director of Legalise Vaping Australia, revealed that over 90% of the vapes being sold in Australia are black market, and ironically, while disposable vapes have never been legal in Australia they are now more readily available than ever. Speaking on how to tackle this flourishing black market, he advises:

“Australia should be following the lead of New Zealand, the UK and the rest of the world when it comes to vaping laws, allow the sale of high quality vapes and regulate them in the same way we regulate other adult-only products like alcohol.

“Doing this will allow adults to access safer products that won't have sky high nicotine levels... It will also crush the rampant vaping black market the government has created.”

Given the consequences seen in Australia, it suggests that should disposable vapes be banned in the UK, we may well see a similar rise in illegal black market products.

The advantage of tackling black market vapes
Tackling the issue of black market vapes would make it easier for buyers to ensure that the disposable vapes they’re buying are safe and ecologically responsible. Black market vapes can infiltrate even big chains or brick and mortar shops, making it harder for consumers to know that they are getting the products they’re paying for.

Some knock off vapes can look very convincing, but that doesn’t mean that they adhere to the strict safety standards that they should. Black market vapes can be harmful and these counterfeits are partly responsible for a negative perception of vaping and disposable vapes. Making sure you’re buying from a reputable seller is the best way to protect yourself from buying counterfeits.

Black market vapes sidestep important regulations
Not only can black market vapes be made from inferior components, but they may not be following the government’s regulations for e-cigarettes, including requirements such as:

·A maximum capacity of 2ml for tanks or pods
·A maximum volume of nicotine-containing e-liquid of 10ml for one refill container
·Ensuring that nicotine-containing products, or their packaging, is child-resistant and tamper evident
·All e-cigarettes and e-liquids be notified and published by the MHRA before they can be sold
·The banning of diacetyl, caffeine, taurine, and certain colourings

The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 introduced these rules as a means not only of setting minimum standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refill containers, but also as a way of creating an environment that protects children and ensures that consumers have enough information to make informed choices.

These regulations and their aims are something we strictly align with, and we fully back efforts to clamp down on the production and sale of counterfeit vapes and believe this should be a strong focus for future legislation, as it ensures that consumers can be confident in the integrity of the vaping devices they choose.

How black market vapes can endanger younger people
Younger people may not have the same access to information or have the same level of experience as older consumers. This means they are especially vulnerable when it comes to counterfeits. In 2023, the BBC reported that vapes confiscated from school children contained high levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Of the 18 vapes tested, most were illegal and had not gone through any kind of testing before being sold in the UK.

Making the switch from disposable vapes
Refillable and reusable vapes offer a more sustainable way to enjoy the benefits of vaping. Promoting the use of these reusable alternatives and offering vapers guidance on how to make the switch from disposable to reusable devices is one way to reduce waste – and it offers lots of benefits for vapers, too.

A refillable pod kit is a good choice for those who are looking for a way to move on from disposable vapes while still enjoying the benefits of vaping. The beginner-friendly pod kits are convenient and easy to use, making them a natural next step. They have detachable pods which allow you to refill your device with the e-liquid of your choice. [HD1] Once the coil in the pod starts to burn out, you can replace the pod without having to replace the whole device – significantly cutting down on waste.

Refillable pod vapes also work out as cheaper than disposable vapes, thanks to the fact the device is a one-off purchase. Buying bottles of e-liquid and refilling a pod yourself costs less than buying pre-filled, disposable vapes. There is also an even wider range of flavours and nicotine strengths to choose from.

If you have been using disposable vapes and want to transition to a reusable vape kit, take a look at our alternatives to disposable vapes guide for information on making the switch and which vape kit to choose.