The UK government unveiled plans to outlaw disposable vapes as part of a broader strategy to combat the increasing prevalence of vaping among young people. In addition to banning disposable vapes, measures will be implemented to curb the marketing of vapes to children and prevent underage sales.
According to data from the Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) charity, the percentage of 11- to 17-year-olds who regularly or occasionally vape has surged to 7.6%, up from 4.1% in 2020. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak emphasised the urgency of addressing this concerning trend before it becomes widespread.
The proposed ban on disposable vapes follows last year’s announcement of restrictions on cigarette sales to individuals born after January 1, 2009, aiming to create a generation free from smoking habits. While selling vapes to individuals under 18 is already illegal, disposable vapes, often packaged attractively, have been identified as a significant driver of youth vaping.
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins expressed confidence that the bill would secure parliamentary approval before the upcoming general election, expected later this year, with enforcement slated for early 2025. The legislation could utilise existing environmental protection laws to enforce the ban.
Disposable vapes have faced criticism for their environmental impact and challenging disposal processes due to components like lithium batteries. The proposed measures also include regulations on refillable vapes, restricting child-friendly flavours, and requiring plain packaging.
To combat underage sales, fines for illegal vape sales to minors will be increased, and retailers may face penalties for non-compliance. Educational institutions and health professionals have welcomed the initiative, highlighting the need to protect children from exposure to vaping products.
While vaping is considered less harmful than smoking, its long-term health effects remain uncertain. The government’s move aims to strike a balance between reducing youth vaping rates and ensuring access for adult smokers seeking alternatives. The announcement follows public consultations and aligns with similar initiatives in Scotland and Wales to create tobacco-free environments.
Despite opposition from vape industry associations, the government remains committed to prioritising public health and safeguarding future generations from the risks associated with vaping.