April 29, 2023
By Drew Sandelands, Local Democracy Reporter
Calls for a ban on disposable vapes have been rejected by East Renfrewshire Council after Conservatives argued they are “preventing deaths”.
Nine councils, including Glasgow and Renfrewshire, have agreed to write to the Scottish Government — which is reviewing the impact of single-use vapes — supporting a ban.
Climate activist Laura Young, from Newton Mearns, has been pushing for action due to the environmental impact of disposable e-cigarettes, which include lithium batteries.
Cllr David Macdonald, independent, brought a motion to an East Renfrewshire full council meeting which called on councillors to back banning “so-called disposable vapes”.
The council’s SNP group supported his proposal but it was defeated by nine votes to seven, as a Conservative amendment received the backing of Labour councillors. Cllr Katie Pragnell, Labour, abstained as she had hoped a combined motion could have been agreed.
Cllr Macdonald said he was “embarrassed and ashamed of what I’m witnessing”, adding: “I thought this was the most apolitical motion I could bring to this chamber.
“We are not calling for a ban on vapes, we recognise their use as a means to quitting smoking. This is purely about the waste aspect of these disposable vapes.”
The Conservative amendment stated the NHS advises “nicotine vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking and is one of the most effective tools for quitting smoking”.
It added the council should work with Police Scotland to “eradicate the illegal sale of tobacco including e-cigarettes and disposal vaping products to people”.
More effective enforcement measures, including potential action against retailers, should be introduced to “prevent littering of vaping products and associated packaging”, the amendment stated.
Cllr Paul Edlin, Conservative, said: “Vaping is known to be less dangerous and reduces the deaths in the population from malignancies caused by smoking.
“If these vapes did not exist people would be dying more because of smoking, that’s a fact, they are preventing deaths.”
He admitted there is a rubbish issue but added: “We don’t ban chocolate because the wrappings cause damage to the environment.
“Banning is a draconian measure reserved for products that seriously damage health, not because they can’t be disposed of.”
Cllr Andrew Morrison, Conservative, said there were “legitimate environmental concerns” but “one cannot escape the irrefutable body of opinion from clinicians, from the NHS, from the British Medical Association”.
He said measures “short of a full ban” such as removing certain flavours to make products “less attractive” to young people should be considered.
Cllr Morrison added reusable vapes are “not necessarily a safer option” as they require a “toxic liquid to refill the chamber”.
In response to Cllr Edlin, Cllr Macdonald said: “When you destroy a chocolate wrapper, it doesn’t explode, it doesn’t create dangerous or sharp objects in the middle of the street that children will pick up.”
He had earlier paid tribute to former Mearns Castle High School student, Ms Young, for her campaign. He wanted to “send a clear message that we support a ban on these single-use electronic devices that are harming our natural environment and littering our streets”.
Cllr Macdonald said many are “simply being dropped on the ground” and he found 23 during a 400 metre walk near his home. Lithium batteries can be “incredibly dangerous”, he added, as they can cause fires.
Cllr Annette Ireland, SNP, said vapes are “clearly targeted at children”, with bright colours and flavours such as green gummy bear, rainbow and cola ice. “They could create a whole new generation hooked on nicotine,” she added.