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UK Bans Disposable Vapes to Protect Children

At the end of January, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that his government would ban disposable vapes. The “smoke-free generation” law, which was first mentioned in October of last year during a keynote speech at a Conservative Party Conference, will ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone born on or after January 1st, 2009. In other words, it will prevent children who are 15 or younger this year from ever legally buying cigarettes. 

In addition, the UK government now has new powers to restrict vape flavors, introduce plain packaging, and change how vapes are displayed in shops. Speaking about the new legislation, Sunak said, “These changes will leave a lasting legacy by protecting our children’s health for the long term.”1“Disposable vapes banned to protect children’s health,” GOV.UK, Jan. 28, 2024. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/disposable-vapes-banned-to-protect-childrens-health

According to the government, disposable vapes have been a “key driver behind the alarming rise in youth vaping,” with the proportion of 11 to 17-year-olds using disposables increasing almost ninefold in the last 2 years. 

The decision to tackle youth vaping follows an 8-week public consultation on smoking and vaping which launched shortly after the Conservative Party Conference. Over 25,000 responses were analyzed. Seventy percent of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, and the general public expressed support for the new measures. 

The announcement has been met with applause from health groups. Dr. Mike McKean, Vice President for policy at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said, “We’re delighted that the Westminster Government has heard our calls and is rightly prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our children and the planet.” He added that data around e-cigarettes is in its infancy, and the “long-term impacts, especially for children and young people, remain unknown.” 

The government also hopes that these changes will have a positive environmental impact. Environment Secretary Steve Barclay has high hopes for the new law, saying, “This historic announcement will be a powerful tool in support of our efforts to crack down on waste and boost recycling.” 

Each week, five million disposable vapes are thrown away, which is equivalent to the lithium batteries of over 5,000 electric vehicles. Just last year, the UK threw away 1.3 million disposable vapes each week. 

Despite the overwhelmingly positive response, some speculate as to how effective it will be in practice. In January of this year, a study backed by academics at University College of London and funded by Cancer Research UK found that a ban on disposables will impact an estimated 2.6 million people in England, Wales, and Scotland2S. E. Jackson et al., “Who would be affected by a ban on disposable vapes? A population study in Great Britain,” Public Health, Jan. 2024, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2023.12.024

Dr. Sarah Jackson, the lead author of the study, said, “While banning disposables might seem like a straightforward solution to reduce youth vaping, it could have substantial unintended consequences for people who smoke.”3T. Thomas, “Disposable vapes ban ‘could lead to relapse in people trying to quit smoking,’” The Guardian, Jan. 24, 2024. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2024/jan/24/disposable-vapes-ban-e-cigarette-use-quitting-smoking-research-study She went on to say that a blanket ban on disposables might “discourage use of e-cigarettes among people trying to smoke.” 

Another dilemma is whether the ban will be effective at all. Other countries have implemented similar bans only to discover a burgeoning black market for illicit vape products. In recent news, the FDA seized 1.4 million e-cigarettes at Los Angeles International Airport. This massive loot was collected during a three-day sting operation, which highlights the scale of the issue.

However, the UK government has put measures in place to address this problem. To support the new regulations, HMRC and Border Force published Stubbing Out the Problem4“Stubbing out the problem: A new strategy to tackle illicit tobacco,” GOV.UK, Jan. 31, 2024. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/stubbing-out-the-problem-a-new-strategy-to-tackle-illicit-tobacco, a new strategy that targets illicit tobacco products. It adds more than £100 million in funding across 5 years to the existing illicit tobacco strategy, From leaf to light5“Tackling illicit tobacco: From leaf to light,” GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tackling-illicit-tobacco-from-leaf-to-light

The changes are expected to come into effect at the end of 2024 or in early 2025.

Sources

  • 1
    “Disposable vapes banned to protect children’s health,” GOV.UK, Jan. 28, 2024. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/disposable-vapes-banned-to-protect-childrens-health
  • 2
    S. E. Jackson et al., “Who would be affected by a ban on disposable vapes? A population study in Great Britain,” Public Health, Jan. 2024, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2023.12.024
  • 3
    T. Thomas, “Disposable vapes ban ‘could lead to relapse in people trying to quit smoking,’” The Guardian, Jan. 24, 2024. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2024/jan/24/disposable-vapes-ban-e-cigarette-use-quitting-smoking-research-study
  • 4
    “Stubbing out the problem: A new strategy to tackle illicit tobacco,” GOV.UK, Jan. 31, 2024. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/stubbing-out-the-problem-a-new-strategy-to-tackle-illicit-tobacco
  • 5
    “Tackling illicit tobacco: From leaf to light,” GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tackling-illicit-tobacco-from-leaf-to-light
Viki Howlett
Viki Howlett
Viki Howlett, a skilled writer with a decade of vaping experience, enriches our website with engaging, well-researched articles, offering readers valuable insights and trustworthy reviews on vaping products and trends.
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