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Are vapes being banned in the UK?

Disposable vapes are set to be banned in Britain as part of a plan to tackle the rise in young people vaping and to protect children’s health.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to announce the plan to implement the ban – which is expected to come into force at the end of 2024 or the start of 2025 – during a visit to a school on Monday.

New data shows the number of children vaping in the past three years has tripled, the Government said, adding that use among younger children is also rising, with nine per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds now using vapes. It has increased nine-fold among older teens.

The ban forms part of the Government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, which was launched in October last year.

Mr Sunak said: “As any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends at the moment is the rise in vaping among children, and so we must act before it becomes endemic.

“The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable."

It follows last year's announcement of an attempt to create a “smoke-free generation” by banning the sale of cigarettes to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.

The Government will implement the ban using powers already in place under the Environmental Protection Act.

Five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week, up from 1.3 million last year.

Health and environmental groups have said they are “delighted” with the Government’s plan, which they say prioritises the “health and wellbeing of our children and the planet”.

But others have criticised the move, saying disposable vapes are a tool to help people give up smoking cigarettes.

Last year, one charity warned that a ban on single-use products might “flood” the market with illegal products.

Scott Butler, executive director at Material Focus, an environmental charity, told the Guardian: “If the legitimate industry is banned, then there will be no mechanism to deal with all the operational challenges and costs of illegally sold vapes, which have the same challenges.”

But how will the ban work and what could it mean? Here are the details as we know them so far.

A new ONS survey found 4.5 million people reported being daily or occasional vape users in 2022 (Nicholas T Ansell / PA Wire)
A new ONS survey found 4.5 million people reported being daily or occasional vape users in 2022 (Nicholas T Ansell / PA Wire)

Why does the Government want to ban disposable vapes?

The move to ban colourful disposable vapes comes after criticism from health experts and paediatricians.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has previously called for a ban on disposable vapes as it warned that “youth vaping is fast becoming an epidemic among children”.

It called for urgent action to protect youngsters, saying experts agree that longer-term data is needed on the effects of vaping.

Earlier this month, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a large increase in vaping among teenagers and young adults in Britain.

NHS figures also show a rise in the number of children admitted to hospital due to vaping.

Forty children and young people were admitted to hospital in England last year due to “vaping-related disorders”, which included lung damage or worsening asthma symptoms, up from 11 two years earlier, the NHS said.

And, a recent study found that young people who vape are twice as likely to report chronic stress compared with peers who abstain.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, has said previously: “If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape; marketing vapes to children is utterly unacceptable.”

There have also been calls for disposable vapes to be banned to protect the environment.

Recycling campaign group Material Focus said five million disposable vapes are thrown away every week.

More than seven million single-use vapes are bought every week in the UK — double the amount bought in 2022, it said, but only 17 per cent of people correctly recycle their vapes in shops or recycling centres.

The group warned that vapes are toxic and can be damaging to the environment and wildlife if littered.

The move to ban is set to be announced under a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care, which looked at all available evidence.

A poll by health charity Ash found that more than four in 10 smokers think vaping is more harmful than cigarettes (Anthony Devlin / PA Archive)
A poll by health charity Ash found that more than four in 10 smokers think vaping is more harmful than cigarettes (Anthony Devlin / PA Archive)

When are vapes being banned?

The ban for disposable vapes is set to be introduced by the end of 2025 at the latest. It will include the manufacturing and sales of disposable vapes such as Elf bars and Lost Mary.

Once the ban is in place, retailers will be given six months to comply and implement the law.

Who uses disposable vapes?

The proportion of young people in London who smoke has halved in more than a decade, new figures have revealed.

Analysis carried out by the Standard shows that just 10.1 per cent of people aged between 18 and 24 regularly smoked cigarettes in 2022 — a drop of 10.7 per cent on the figure reported in 2011, but it is believed vaping numbers are now very high.

Londoners in the age group are the least likely to smoke of any region in England, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Men were slightly more likely (10.7 per cent) to smoke than women (9.4 per cent).

Across all age groups, just 11.7 per cent of Londoners said they smoked cigarettes in 2022 — a decline of 7.5 per cent in 12 years. This was lower than the national average of 12.9 per cent.

Dr James Tucker, data analyst for social care and health at the ONS, said the figure is “consistent with the continuing trend towards a decline in smoking prevalence over recent years”.

The decline in smoking comes amid a significant rise in the number of young people choosing to vape instead.

A total of 15.5 per cent of Britons aged between 16-24 identified as daily or occasional e-cigarette users in 2022, compared with 11.1 per cent the year before. This increase was particularly significant among women in the age group, with a fourfold jump in vaping rates between 2021 and 2022. The ONS did not release figures on e-cigarette use in London specifically.

The ONS figures also reveal a significant variation in smoking rates across different London boroughs, with more deprived areas seeing a higher rate of smoking than more affluent boroughs.

New data shows the number of children vaping in the past three years has tripled, the Government said, adding that use among younger children is also rising, with nine per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds now using vapes.

What kind of vapes do people use?

Vapes have become popular because they are easy to buy, and for the fact they are billed as “healthier” than traditional cigarettes, as well as due to how they are marketed and packaged.

They are sold in supermarkets and in corner shops around the UK, and the packaging is brightly coloured.

They also come in flavours that entice children, such as bubblegum, strawberry lemonade, and blueberry.

Where can you vape legally right now?

Vaping laws are a bit of a grey area and differ drastically from those regulating smoking.

At present, you must be 18 or older to buy and use a vape in the UK.

Vape cartridges — the liquid that goes in them — must not hold more than two millilitres of liquid or contain more than 20 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre.

While selling vapes to under 18s is illegal, nicotine-free products can be sold.

Vaping is allowed in the UK at present and there are no nationwide legal restrictions or laws enforced on vaping in public areas. The use of vaping devices indoors is generally permitted in the UK, unless a specific establishment or public area has imposed a ban. However, individual businesses and organisations have the discretion to implement their own policies regarding vaping on their premises.

Where in the world are vapes banned?

The UK isn’t the only country to have proposed a ban on disposable vapes. A number of countries around the world have already introduced bans on e-cigarettes. Here are all the countries that have imposed a ban on disposable vapes so far:

Europe

  • Turkey

  • Vatican City

At the time of writing, the UK and France have proposed the implementation of a ban on disposable vapes.

Asia

  • Bhutan

  • Brunei

  • Cambodia

  • Hong Kong

  • India

  • Iran

  • Iraq

  • Japan (vaping non-nicotine e-liquid is legal)

  • Kuwait

  • Laos

  • Lebanon

  • The states of Penang, Kedah, Johor, Kelantan in Malaysia

  • N. Korea

  • Nepal

  • Oman

  • Palestine

  • Qatar

  • Singapore

  • Sri Lanka

  • Syria

  • Taiwan

  • Thailand

  • Timor-Leste

  • Turkmenistan

Africa

  • Ethiopia

  • Gambia

  • Ghana (unless you have a prescription)

  • Mauritius

  • Seychelles

  • Uganda

Oceania

  • Australia (unless you have a prescription)

Americas

  • Antigua and Barbuda

  • Argentina

  • Brazil

  • Mexico

  • Nicaragua

  • Panama

  • Suriname

  • Venezuela

  • Uruguay