Will Disposable Vapes Be Banned In The UK?

/ 7 min read

Will Disposable Vapes Be Banned In The UK?

Despite their commercial success disposable vaping devices have made significant waves since hitting UK shelves circa 2021, swaying public and expert opinion alike. The many issues surrounding disposable vapes have no compounded in the form of a ban, which is currently being debated in parliament, under review by the Department of Health and Social Care, The Guardian reports. 

For most who keep an eye on the news the controversy surrounding the small, brightly coloured, single-use vaping devices is apparent. It has not been long since headlines were flooded with news of leading brands like Elf Bar and Lost Mary being stripped form supermarket shelves amidst an exposé which confirmed specific lines contained more than the legal UK limit of 2ml of e-liquid. Waitrose was the only supermarket to decide not to carry disposable vaping devices at all. 

This incident raised significant questions of safety amongst UK consumers who discovered that the single-use vapes had not been subject to the expected safety and quality checks all UK vaping products must adhere to under TPD/TRPR regulations. 

Public safety is only one of the concerns being discussed by the Government, the reasons behind the call for a total ban are multi-faceted. 


Illegal Importation 

The issue of illegal stock reaching the shelves of even the most respected retailers is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to illegally imported disposable vapes. 

Trading standards have been raiding retailers and warehouses alike over the last two years amidst the discovery that people across the country have been getting access to disposable vaping devices that do not adhere to, and have never been subject to the MHRA’s strict approval process. 

Under UK law, vaping products must adhere to the following restrictions: 

  • No nicotine strength above 20mg/ml (2%) 
  • No tank/pod/cartridge can contain above 2ml of e-liquid 
  • Strict labelling elements including health warnings and hazard statements such as allergens in ingredients 

Unfortunately, many of the illegally imported disposable vaping devices circulating exceed these limits, and do not carry the necessary warnings or product information to allow consumers to safely assess whether they should buy them or not. For those without specific vaping knowledge, it is very hard to tell the legitimate from the illegal as the devices largely look the same. We have written this guide to help anyone who wants to avoid picking up a dodgy import. 

Not knowing what is inside these disposable vapes is the main reason the illegal imports are contributing to the calls for a ban. The unknown potential risk to public health is simply too large to ignore. 

Underage Vaping 

Arguably the biggest driving force behind the potential ban is the alarming number of under-18s reportedly vaping using disposable vapes almost exclusively. The devices have become a huge trend amongst the UK’s youth, and the issue has continued to grow in-line with the devices rise to popularity. 

The Guardian has reported that Child respiratory doctors have already criticised the government last year (2022) 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, especially considering all disposable vape bars contain 2% nicotine, the highest concentration allowed in the UK. 

Professor Andrew Bush a consultant paediatric chest physician at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals stated that: “I am concerned that we are sleepwalking into a public health catastrophe with a generation of children hooked on nicotine.” 

The issue of young people vaping has been raised in the past a number of times, but only since the rise of disposable vape kits has it truly taken hold of the nation’s youth. The latest Government review of vaping, published in September 2022, flagged that the number of 11-18-year-olds vaping had doubled from 4% in 2021 to 8.6% in 2022, a figure that has continued to grow. Of these young people over half reported that disposable vapes were their go-to vs only 7.8% the previous year. 

In the same Gov report, it was revealed that (base don data form an ASH youth survey): 

“Although it is illegal to sell vaping products to under 18 year olds, many young people under the age of 18 bought and owned their own vaping devices. In the 2021 ASH-Y survey, just under a quarter (24.8%) of young people aged 11 to 17 said that they were given products by friends. But others also reported buying them, for example: 

The ban is being discussed as a final response to prevent youth access to single-use vapes, following general failings of current systems to discourage retailers from selling to under-18s. 

Disposable Vapes in the bin

Environmental Crisis 

Disposable vapes are made from mixed materials, but are sold as a single unit. This makes it nearly impossible for the end consumer to recycle. As a result, Only 17% of people say they recycle single-use vapes, with 73% thrown away and 1% flushed down the toilet according to a survey carried out by environmental group Material Focus. 

We have already explored in our blogs the impact Disposable vapes were having in October last year (2022) where it was revealed: 

  • Two disposable vapes were thrown away every second in the UK. 
  • That meant we were wasting valuable lithium which cannot be recovered from their batteries. 
  • Lithium is running out and we rely on it for all modern technology. 
  • We could produce 1200 electric cars per year using the wasted lithium from disposables alone. 

Now however in 2023 the problem has become much worse. According to the Material Focus report in the Guardian: 

  • Eight disposable vapes are now thrown away every second in the UK. 
  • 5 million disposable vapes are thrown away every week, a 4x increase on 2022. 
  • That now means enough precious lithium to produce 5000 electric car batteries per year is being wasted and locked-off in landfill. 

Scott Butler, the executive director at Material Focus, said the “problem with single-use vapes has gotten further out of control” since the organisation published research last year. “Single-use vapes are a strong contender for being the most environmentally wasteful, damaging and dangerous consumer product ever made,” he said. 

There is a major call for vaping manufacturers, retailers and consumers to step up their game and act more responsibly to curb this issue. At EDGE vaping we now produce e-liquid using 100% renewable energy, and have extensive recycling schemes in place, but the industry as a whole must act now to ensure a sustainable future. 

Fallout From The Disposable Vape ban – Are There Alternatives? 

While the ban in theory sounds like a swift solution to the issues described above, there are fears that doing so would simply help fuel a growing black market, which would put the public at even greater risk than they already are. 

The government is understood to have stopped short of a ban on all vaping without a prescription because it still sees vaping as a good alternative for adults who smoke as per the Khan Review. 

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.” 

For those looking to replicate the experience of using a disposable vape in a more responsible package, there are now a number of 10ml bottled e-liquids offering disposable style flavours, called “bar salts”. These have a big flavour punch and are very smooth to inhale even at high strengths. When combined with refillable pod devices like the VooPoo Argu P1, or Vapores Xros 3, you can replicate the convenience and portability of a disposable vape bar. 

The nature of the ban is still to be revealed, but for those looking for an alternative now, the products above are a great option. 

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