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New Nicotine Alliance slams government over ban on disposable vapes

January 30, 2024

A selection of disposable vapes with bright and colourful packaging are seen in a convenience store, on January 29, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Consumer body New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) said it is extremely disappointed to hear that the UK government plans to ban single use vapes, restrict many flavours which can help people quit smoking, enforce plain packaging, and severely reduce the visibility of life-saving products.

“The government’s response to the recent public consultation has ignored the most knowledgeable experts in tobacco control and put forth measures which will fail to tackle the issue of youth vaping and illicit sales, while also producing outcomes which will be damaging to public health,” the NNA said in a statement.

The government’s assertion that disposable vapes have been a key driver behind a recent rise in youth vaping fails to recognise that over 50 per cent of sales of disposable devices are already counterfeit, non-compliant, or illegal, the NNA said, adding that prohibiting the products entirely will only affect legitimate, regulated traders while giving a boost to criminal enterprises who will now fully control a market with high demand.

Commenting on the reports that the government is also planning to restrict flavours to just four, namely, tobacco, mint, menthol, and ‘fruit’, NNA said the wide array of flavours currently available are vital for the success of vaping products to tempt people who smoke to switch and stay quit.

“It is extremely concerning that ministers have given little or no thought to how their proposed actions will affect adult vapers and adults who currently smoke,” it said.

NNA further added that there is a valid argument that packaging should be regulated to ensure it is not blatantly child-friendly and likely to appeal to minors. However, it is facile and unsubstantiated to claim that any particular flavour is only developed to market to children. The most cited is bubblegum flavour, yet it has been a very popular flavour for adults since the early days of vaping.

“It is important to recognise that fruit, dessert and candy flavours are the most popular category among adult vapers, with more than half of all vapers choosing them. Removing these flavours will weaken the appeal of vapes for smokers considering switching, while enforcing plain packaging will cement the already widespread incorrect assumption amongst the public that vaping is as or more harmful than smoking,” the statement noted.

“The result can only be less switching, more relapsing to smoking, and a further increase in misperceptions amongst the public. All these outcomes will cost a significant amount of lives.

“We regret that the government has taken a naïve and simplistic approach to the problems it set out to tackle, without properly assessing the evidence, and dismissing the testimonies of experts in the field.”

Just this week, a study by University College London, funded by Cancer Research UK, found that a ban on single use vapes would “affect 2.6 million adults” and “could have substantial unintended consequences for people who smoke.”

It further warned that it would “discourage use of e-cigarettes among people trying to quit smoking and may induce relapse among those who have already used disposables to quit.”

NNA noted that the government’s ‘ill thought-out’ response has even ignored the spirit of its own independent tobacco review in 2022 which recommended that government ’embrace the promotion of vaping as an effective tool to help people to quit smoking tobacco’ and identified that ‘the alternative is far worse’.

“Banning vaping products, implementing plain packaging, and restricting flavours is the opposite of an embrace,” NNA said.

“Worse still, it has also ignored its own Health and Social Care Committee which did not recommend a ban on disposable vapes, warning ‘the Government should approach the issue with caution … owing to the risk of unintended consequences such as increasing the supply of illegal, unregulated vapes.’

“It is clear that single use vape devices are popular among young people. But the government has forgotten that 25 years ago the same demographic would have been initiating their nicotine use from smoking instead of vaping. We are seeing a generational shift of nicotine use from burning tobacco to using a far safer delivery device and if, as they will, adolescents are to experiment with anything, is it not far better that it be vaping than combustible cigarettes?

“In summation, to satisfy a populist and largely unenlightened panic, the government’s proposals fail to consider the disadvantage they will cause to adult ex-smokers and the predicted rise in illicit supplies. They have been compiled without due reference to its own expert advisers, and without regard to the inevitable increase in supply of illicit products. It ignores the certain damaging effect on public health which will result from fewer adult smokers switching and vapers of all ages relapsing to combustible tobacco.”