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Vaping industry dismayed at ban on disposable vapes

January 29, 2024

Photo: iStock

Trade bodies in the vaping industry have expressed their dismay at the government’s decision to ban disposable vapes, which they said have been instrumental in bringing the UK’s smoking rates down to a record low and have played a key role in helping millions of adults quit and stay off cigarettes.

“While action to prevent youth access to vaping is critical, this move smacks more of a desperate attempt by the government to sacrifice vapers for votes ahead of the upcoming General Election. If the government thinks banning disposables will help protect young people, they are completely misguided. This counterproductive legislation will sooner put children at greater risk by turbo-charging the black market and, in turn, making it easier for them to access illicit and non-compliant vapes,” the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) said in a statement.

The UKVIA added that the answer to youth vaping doesn’t lie in counterproductive bans and restrictions, but rather in effective and proactive enforcement – which is woefully lacking – of the law which states that it is illegal for vapes to be sold to minors.

“It’s why the UKVIA has been part of a major industry-wide consultation over the last couple of months that has led to the development of a vape retailer and distributor licensing scheme to make it harder for the rogue traders to get away with underage and illicit sales. This is being presented to parliamentarians in February and will raise £50m or more to put towards Trading Standards to increase enforcement without any cost to the taxpayer,” the trade body said.

“In the meantime, we will hold the Government to account for the increased smoking rates, as well as the lives and jobs that will be lost, as a result of their shocking and ill thought through decision today,” it added.

Chair of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA), the leading independent trade association for the UK vaping industry, Marcus Saxton said: “Children and those who have not smoked should not be using vapes and the industry is making significant efforts and progress to protect children including launching an industry code of conduct and changes to product descriptors and flavour names. However, introducing bans on single-use vapes and flavours, will have hugely damaging consequences including making it harder for smokers to quit and will push those that have quit, back into smoking. Big tobacco will be rubbing its hands with glee in anticipation of possible vape bans.

“Further, with an estimated third of the UK vape market comprising illicit products, any ban will simply benefit those pushing illegal and unregulated product as people seek out single-use and flavoured products from illicit sources.

“Research by Cancer Research UK and UCL published in recent days shows the critical role that single use vapes are playing in helping the 6.4 million smokers in the UK to quit and the risks of introducing bans. The vape industry stands ready to work with government to implement a proportionate regulatory regime, but introducing knee-jerk and unevidenced bans is not the solution. It’s simple – bans do not work.”

The announcement comes on the back of new research from University College London, released just last week, which found such a move could discourage the use of vaping as a stop smoking tool and trigger relapse amongst those who have already used disposables to quit, negatively impacting almost two million former and current smokers and setting back the nation’s smokefree 2030 ambitions significantly.

The UKVIA said the move will also hand the regulated vaping market to criminals on a silver platter.

“It is estimated that in Australia, where vapes are now only available on difficult to obtain prescriptions, as many as 92 per cent of vapers are buying their products through illegal channels and as many as 100 million illicit products are smuggled into the country every year. The leading public health charity Action on Smoking and Health UK has previously warned that children already ‘find it easy’ to access illegal vapes as those selling them have ‘no qualms’ selling to minors,” it noted.

The UKVIA has long called for greater restrictions around flavour names and descriptors and agrees that products and packaging should not feature youth appealing imagery and language, however, a move to plain packaging conflates them with cigarettes and further deters adult smokers from making the switch.

“The government must tread extremely carefully when it comes to flavour restrictions. A recent survey conducted by One Poll found that as many as 1.5 million vapers fear they would return to smoking if flavours were banned and 83 percent of vapers claim that flavours have helped them ‘pack in their smoking habit’,” the statement said.

In its submission to the recent vaping consultation issued by the government which has led to the decision to ban disposables, the Royal College of Physicians called for the use of a range of flavours, including fruit flavours to enable smoking cessation in adults, stating, “The use of flavours by adults trying to quit smoking is an integral part of the effectiveness of vaping as a quit aid. Government should restrict flavour descriptors rather than flavours themselves.”