Health and environmental groups are “delighted” with the Government’s plan to ban disposable vapes, which they say prioritises the “health and wellbeing of our children and the planet”.
But others have criticised the ban, which is expected to come into force at the end of 2024 or the start of 2025, saying disposable vapes are a tool to help people give up smoking cigarettes.
Throwaway vapes will be banned in Britain under plans to tackle the rise in young people vaping and protect children’s health.
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 prioritising the health and wellbeing of our children and the planet.
“As a respiratory consultant it is not lost on me that smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and disease in the UK.
“We know this because we have 60-plus years of research and data on cigarette use on a population level. But the research and data around widespread e-cigarette use is still very much in its infancy. The long-term impacts, especially for children and young people, remain unknown.”
The ban forms part of the Government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, which was launched in October last year.
New powers will also be introduced to restrict flavours, produce plainer packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of children’s sight.
Trading standards officers will be given powers to issue £100 fines “on the spot” to tackle underage tobacco and vape sales at shops in England and Wales.
Under the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, the Government has previously announced plans to introduce legislation so children turning 15 this year or younger can never legally be sold tobacco – to bring about the “first smokefree generation”.
The UK Government, along with the Welsh and Scottish governments, intends to use legislation to ban disposable vapes because of their significant environmental impacts, according to the Welsh Government. This includes both nicotine and non-nicotine products.
In Northern Ireland, the decision must be agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, which is not sitting after powersharing at Stormont collapsed almost two years ago.
The announcement was hailed as a “vital stepping stone on the path to ending the smoking epidemic”, by Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health.
She said: “The Government’s strategy is the right one: stop smoking initiation, support smokers to quit by using the most effective methods, while protecting children by curbing youth vaping.”
And Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said when speaking to young people a couple of years ago she was “shocked and concerned” to hear children as young as 12 say vaping was “normalised among their peers”.
She said: “This announcement will help tackle that issue and I know that many children and parents will be extremely relieved.”
The plainer packaging proposal was praised by Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), who said the “comic characters, bright colours and sweet names” were “unacceptable for products that should only be promoted to adults as an aid to quitting smoking”.
Meanwhile, calls were made for the Government to ensure services which support people to stop smoking are “adequately funded” if the changes are brought in.
Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: “Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer, and research shows that vapes are far less harmful than smoking and can help people to quit.
“If this legislation is passed, the UK Government should ensure local smoking cessation services are adequately funded, and those trying to quit are given as much support as they need to help them do so.”
And Bob Blackman MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, said the legislation will need to be scrutinised when it is laid before Parliament, as the “devil will be in the detail”.
Environmental groups and charities hailed the disposable vapes ban as news which “can’t come soon enough”.
Some five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week, up from 1.3 million from last year, the Government said.
Libby Peake, head of resource policy, Green Alliance, said: “This ban can’t come soon enough, not only for the health of future generations, but also for the health of the planet.”
She said there will be many environmental benefits, as lithium ion batteries will stop going to waste, the risk of fire from mishandled batteries will be minimised and “dangerous plastic pollution will be prevented”.
Gavin Graveson, Veolia senior executive vice president, Northern Europe, said that “we can’t afford to allow more pollution” adding disposable vapes have been designed “with no thought for their environmental impact”.
But some groups hit out at the disposable vape ban, saying how they have helped smokers to quit.
Removing disposable vapes will make it harder to support the most vulnerable smokers who find it difficult to use refillable products, Dr Ruth Sharrock, clinical lead for tobacco dependency, North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care Board, said.
She said: “The immediacy of a disposable vape makes such a difference. It is as if we are taking a cigarette out of their hand and replacing it with a vastly safer product.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “Vaping has been a free market success story. Millions of smokers who want to quit have done so by switching voluntarily to e-cigarettes and other reduced-risk products.
“The convenience of single use vapes has played an important part in that process.”
The answer to stopping youths vaping lies in “effective and proactive enforcement” rather than a ban, John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association said.
He also said the disposable vapes ban announcement will put children at “greater risk by turbo-charging the black market”.