The Ban on Disposable Vapes in the UK: Consequences and Substitutes

The UK Government has declared its intention to prohibit the sale of all disposable vapes, alongside potential measures like flavour restrictions and implementing plain packaging and display controls. This decision follows an extensive consultation on smoking and vaping in 2023, where nearly 70% of respondents called for a ban on disposable e-cigarettes.

On the flip side, the government acknowledges vaping as a crucial tool in achieving its goal of a smoke-free England by 2030. Citing the latest Cochrane review, which underscores vaping as the most successful nicotine replacement therapy, they aim to ensure vape devices remain accessible to current smokers, noting vaping’s contribution to reducing smokers by 50,000 to 70,000 annually.

Disposable vapes have been effective aids for smokers seeking to quit, with over 7.7 million sold weekly in 2023. However, their popularity among children and youth has also surged rapidly. Join us as we delve into the implications of the disposable vape ban and other proposed vaping restrictions.


What are disposable vapes and why are they favoured?

Disposable vapes are one-time-use electronic cigarettes that simulate smoking without requiring setup or prior knowledge. They come prefilled with flavoured e-liquid and nicotine, featuring a non-rechargeable pre-charged battery and a buttonless design activated by inhaling. Despite aiding smokers unfamiliar with vaping, their convenience contributes to environmental concerns, as most of the over 30 million single-use vapes purchased monthly in the UK end up discarded.

The Ban on Disposable Vapes in the UK: Consequences and Substitutes

Why the ban on disposable vapes?

The ban primarily targets the surge in youth vaping, with colourful packaging and sweet flavours appealing to children. The latest data from ASH shows nearly a twofold increase in vaping among children in the past two years, with 69% of young vapers using disposables. Environmental impact is another concern, with disposables contributing to waste and pollution. Additionally, disposables can be recycled, but only 17% of vapers say they recycle theirs, leading to concerns about battery waste.


When will the ban take effect?

While no specific date is set, the government aims to pass the bill by late 2024, with implementation expected by early 2025. A six-month grace period will allow industry and retailers to phase out disposables and adopt regulations.


What alternatives are available?

Various vaping options, such as prefilled and refillable pod kits, offer cost-effective and eco-friendly alternatives. Refillable pod kits, in particular, are cheaper in the long run and provide more flavour options. However, they require more maintenance compared to disposables.

The Ban on Disposable Vapes in the UK: Consequences and Substitutes

Will the ban reduce youth vaping?

The ban aims to curb youth vaping, but challenges remain in regulating the black market and enforcing age restrictions. ASH suggests taxing disposable vapes and enhancing enforcement of age regulations as alternatives to a ban. However, they caution that a ban may lead to an increase in the black market for disposables.


What types of vape flavours are facing prohibition?

The debate over flavour bans, already enacted in various countries worldwide, is currently under discussion among UK ministers. They are deliberating whether to impose similar restrictions, targeting sweet flavours like desserts and candies, while sparing limited options such as fruits, tobacco, and menthol. Advocates for the ban argue that these sweet flavours appeal to teenagers, reminiscent of popular candies, thus attracting a younger demographic.

However, there’s a compelling argument for the importance of vape flavours in aiding smokers’ transition. Our recent survey revealed that 29% of vapers would return to smoking if sweet e-liquid flavours were banned, with 15% indicating a potential shift to the black market for their preferred flavours. This underscores concerns about potential risks associated with restricting the legitimate vaping industry.


The Ban on Disposable Vapes in the UK: Consequences and Substitutes


What about vape packaging?

The government plans to restrict packaging for flavoured vape products to deter children with colourful branding resembling familiar sweets. Additionally, there will be regulations on how retailers can display vaping products, with proposals suggesting a similar approach to cigarettes, keeping them out of children’s sight and separate from enticing products.

The Ban on Disposable Vapes in the UK: Consequences and Substitutes


Are refillable vapes facing prohibition?

In England, the government, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS, actively promotes vaping as a successful smoking cessation method. Through initiatives like the ‘Swap to Stop’ scheme, offering vape starter kits and counselling to a million smokers, refillable devices are undoubtedly integral. While disposable vapes may phase out, vaping remains a recognized and effective smoking cessation tool endorsed by the government and medical professionals.


What are the economic implications?

The ban could lead to revenue losses and job cuts in the vaping industry. Encouraging smokers to switch to vaping could mitigate economic drawbacks. However, the Institute for Economic Affairs warns that a ban could increase strain on the economy and health services, potentially leading to increased funding required to tackle the black market.


What can be done?

Stakeholders are encouraged to engage with policymakers before the bill becomes law. Promoting refillable vape devices and enforcing existing regulations are vital in addressing the black market and protecting public health.


In conclusion, while the prohibition of disposable vapes is viewed as a positive step towards safeguarding children’s health, it doesn’t signify the end of vaping, as some may assume. On the contrary, the market offers a plethora of vape kits that can readily fill the gap left by single-use vapes. Reusable vape kits not only offer economic benefits but also contribute less to waste. Encouraging the transition to refillable vapes is crucial in ensuring consumers don’t revert to smoking.

The prevalence of black market vapes highlights how retailers, both legitimate and otherwise, freely distribute disposable vapes outside of regulatory frameworks. Despite laws prohibiting the sale of disposable vapes to minors, there’s a concerning uptick in children using these devices. Before implementing a blanket ban on disposable vapes, the government must demonstrate its ability to enforce existing regulations amidst the current black market crisis.

Upon enforcement of the ban, promoting refillable vape devices, which closely mimic disposable vapes, becomes imperative in mitigating the widespread negative economic repercussions of shutting down this nearly £1 billion industry. Increasing the price of disposable vapes could deter minors, while educating smokers about the affordability and ease of use of reusable vape kits could discourage reliance on disposables altogether.