Disposable vape ban in UK will fuel illicit sales, independent retailers warn

“An outright ban will simply send youngsters towards unorthodox and illicit sources," says independent retailers' organisation, The Fed



29 January 2024

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Banning disposable vapes in the UK will not help people give up smoking and vaping but will fuel the illicit market, independent retailers have warned.

Muntazir Dipoti, the national president of the Federation of the Independent Retailers (the Fed), said: “While we agree that action is needed to prevent children and young people being attracted to vaping, we do not believe that banning disposable vapes is the way to go about it.”

The ban on single use vapes in the UK was announced today as the government responded to a consultation it launched in October 2023 on vaping and cigarettes, entitled ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping’.

“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,” warned Dipoti.

“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,” Dipoti continued.

Meanwhile, the introduction of a disposal scheme – similar to the Deposit Return Scheme being planned for single use drinks containers – would better address the government’s concerns on the environmental impact that these products have, The Fed believes.

“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,” Dipoti added.

Government’s justification

According to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, while the new plans will tackle the rising number of young people taking up vaping, he has suggested adult smokers trying to quit would still have access to alternatives like vapes under the proposals.

It is already illegal to sell any vape to anyone under 18, but disposable vapes – often sold in smaller, more colourful packaging than refillable ones – are a “key driver behind the alarming rise in youth vaping”, according to the government.

Figures from the Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) charity suggest 7.6% of 11 to 17-year-olds now vape regularly or occasionally, up from 4.1% in 2020.

BBC News reports that in announcing the plans, the Prime Minister said it was right that “strong action” was taken to stamp out vaping in children.

“Children shouldn’t be vaping, we don’t want them to get addicted, we still don’t understand the full long-term health impacts,” he said.

However, he believes the proposals have struck the right balance between restricting access for children and maintaining access for adult smokers trying to quit smoking.

“It is important that we maintain vapes for adult smokers who want to stop,” Sunak continued, adding that he wanted to target “all the things that make sure children don’t have access to vapes.”

According to the NHS. although vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, it has not been around for long enough for its long-term risks to be known.

Spawning ‘prohibition’ problems

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the UK-based free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), has also commented on the government’s plan to ban disposable vapes and restrict e-cigarette flavours, describing it as a “pro-smoking policy”.

“The government is trying to ram through illiberal and counterproductive policies before anyone thinks about them too carefully,” Snowdon said. “The generational ban on tobacco sales will be a farce and will spawn all the problems associated with prohibition. Most of the government’s anti-vaping policies are effectively pro-smoking policies as they will drive vapers back to cigarettes.

“There is clear evidence that e-cigarette flavour bans are associated with an increase in cigarette sales*. Only last week, a study funded by Cancer Research UK expressed strong reservations about a blanket ban on disposable vapes which are used by 2.6 million Britons**.

“There is room for sensible regulation of branding that is clearly aimed at minors and a ban on selling nicotine pouches to children is long overdue, but the government is throwing the baby out with the bath water with plain packaging, flavour bans and the prohibition of disposable vapes. The real answer is to enforce the law banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors which is being flouted up and down the country.”





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