Ministers are reportedly poised to ban single-use vapes, after a series of calls from councils, leading paediatricians and public waste campaigners to make selling the disposable devices illegal on health and environmental grounds.
The move could come next week after the government concluded the products are overwhelmingly aimed at children, who then become addicted. It is due to be revealed in a consultation issued by the Department of Health and Social Care next week, though timings could alter, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Last week, the Guardian revealed that 5 million single-use vapes are being thrown away in the UK every week, a fourfold increase on 2022. Research by the not-for-profit organisation Material Focus said this amounted to eight vapes a second being discarded, with the lithium in the products enough to create 5,000 electric car batteries a year.
Child respiratory doctors criticised the government last year for failing to heed warnings about the risks of allowing e-cigarettes to be sold in child-friendly packaging containing the names of popular sweet treats – including banana milkshake and jelly babies, both of which contain 2% nicotine, the highest concentration allowed in the UK.
At the time, Prof Andrew Bush, a consultant paediatric chest physician at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, said: “I am concerned that we are sleepwalking into a public health catastrophe with a generation of children hooked on nicotine.”
Scott Butler, the executive director at Material Focus, said last Friday that the “problem with single-use vapes has gotten further out of control” over the past year. “Single-use vapes are a strong contender for being the most environmentally wasteful, damaging and dangerous consumer product ever made,” he said.
In July, MPs urged the government to introduce restrictions on the packaging and marketing of disposable vapes to tackle the alarming trend of children using these addictive products.
Britain is lagging behind the rest of the world in addressing the issue. Australia has banned all vaping without a prescription, Germany prohibited flavoured e-cigarettes and New Zealand outlawed most disposable vapes and put curbs on marketing to children. Earlier this month, France also announced it is planning to ban all disposable e-cigarettes.
The government is understood to have stopped short of a ban on all vaping without a prescription because it sees vaping as a good alternative for adults who smoke.
Prof Sir Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has said in the past: “If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape, and marketing to children is utterly unacceptable.”
A DHSC spokesperson said: “We are concerned about the rise in youth vaping and the environmental impacts of disposable vapes.
“That is why we launched a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products – and explore where the government can go further.
“We will set out our response in due course.”