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British Government Considers Banning Disposable Vapes Over Increase in Young Vapers

The British government is considering banning disposable vape pens to combat the rise of young people addicted to vaping. Speaking on the decision, Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan told Sky News “It’s something that we need to act on and, as a Government, what we’re trying to do is recognize what the key challenges are and grip them.” 

This proposal comes as no surprise to vapers in the UK. MPs have been speaking out against disposables for a long time. Conservative MP Steve Brine, who chairs the health and social care committee, recently spoke out against a worrying trend of “brightly colored and branded vapes with flavors that name unicorns, sweets, and popular fizzy drinks.” 1“Health and Social Care Committee, ‘Impose heavier restrictions on disposable vapes to limit child use,’ UK Parliament, 19-Jul-2023. [Online]. Available: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/81/health-and-social-care-committee/news/196579/impose-heavier-restrictions-on-disposable-vapes-to-limit-child-use-urges-committee/

New vapers love disposables because they offer the lowest learning curve. The colorful packaging and sweet-sounding names have always been a cause for concern, for both parents and eco-conscious advocates. Lost Mary, one of the most popular disposable vape brands in the UK, is guilty on both counts. The super sleek, ergonomic disposables come in a range of ombre color palettes and fun-sounding flavors like Maryjack Kisses, Orange Gummy Bear, and Pink Lemonade.

MPs argue that the design and marketing behind these kinds of products appeal to children, and the evidence reflects that. Research shows that, as of 2023, 20.5% of children had tried vaping 2“Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain,” ASH, Jun. 2023. [Online]. Available: https://ash.org.uk/resources/view/use-of-e-cigarettes-among-young-people-in-great-britain, up from 15.8% in 2022. The same study also found that, since 2021, the proportion of current vaping has been greater than that of current smoking.

Vape advocates are quick to claim that these figures are misinterpreted. Even the NHS admits that e-cigarettes are ‘less harmful than cigarettes, and can help you quit smoking for good.’ 3“NHS, ‘Using e-cigarettes to stop smoking,’ [Online]. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/using-e-cigarettes-to-stop-smoking/ Some campaigners argue that the increase in the number of children who have tried vaping could be an increase in children who have tried smoking. Doesn’t it make sense to eliminate the 70 known carcinogens in tobacco 4“American Cancer Society, ‘Harmful Chemicals in Tobacco Products,’ [Online]. Available: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/risk-prevention/tobacco/carcinogens-found-in-tobacco-products.html and offer curious teens a safer alternative?

Besides, there is very little evidence that connects vaping to disease. We recently reported on a landmark study that links vaping to cancer that was retracted after a year in circulation. Vape advocates might argue that the sudden rush to ban disposable vapes could be nothing more than fearmongering over a non-issue. 

Very few studies have been conducted into the connection (if any) between vape and disease, so vape advocates have some wiggle room to argue their cause. But there is no argument about the impact of disposable vapes on the environment. 

Research by Material Focus shows that five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week in the UK 5“Material Focus, ‘Number of disposable single-use vapes thrown away have in a year quadrupled to 5 million per week,’ 8-Sep-2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.materialfocus.org.uk/press-releases/number-of-disposable-single-use-vapes-thrown-away-have-in-a-year-nearly-quadrupled-to-5-million-per-week/, which is quadruple the number that were thrown away last year. Scott Butler, the executive director at Material Focus, said “Single-use vapes are a strong contender for being the most environmentally wasteful, damaging, and dangerous consumer product ever made.” 

Worryingly, disposable vapes are much more hazardous than many vapers realize. The lithium-ion batteries that most disposables are fitted with have been known to cause fires in bin lorries and waste processing centers. On top of that, some vapers don’t know that their disposables are recyclable 6“E. Hambly, ‘Should disposable vapes be banned?,’ BBC News, 11-Sep-2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-63037553

With all the ethical and environmental concerns swirling around disposable vapes, we aren’t expecting a good outcome. The Daily Telegraph, the publication that first broke the news, reports that the government may release its decision in a consultation issued by the Department of Health and Social Care next week. Anti-vaping groups, campaigners, and avid vapers will have to wait with bated breath to find out whether their favorite disposable vape has been banned.


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Lexi Burgess
Lexi Burgess
I keep my ear to the ground to report on Vaping, emerging health research, and new vape legislation. When the ever-changing landscape of the vape industry isn’t on my mind, I play badminton and read old horror novels.
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