Disposable vapes to be banned in Britain to protect children’s health

New data shows the number of children vaping in the last three years has tripled, with use among younger children is also rising

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

The prime minister is set to announce the government’s plan to bring the legislation under the Environmental Protection Act - 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.

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

New data shows the number of children vaping in the last three years has tripled, the government said, adding that use among younger children is also rising, with 9% of 11 to 15-year-olds now using vapes.

Many have raised concerns over the branding of vapes, claiming the bright colours and fruity flavours are appealing to children. Credit: PA

Disposable vapes have been pushing the rise in youth vaping, with the proportion of 11 to 17-year-old vapers using disposables increasing almost nine-fold in the last two years, it added.

New powers will also be introduced to restrict flavours which are specifically marketed at children and ensure that manufacturers produce plainer packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of children’s sight.

New fines will also be brought in for shops in England and Wales which sell vapes illegally to children.

Trading standards officers will be given powers to act “on the spot” to tackle underage tobacco and vape sales. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose.

Vaping alternatives – such as nicotine pouches – will also be banned for children.

Prime Minister Rishi 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.

'We must act before it becomes endemic,' said Rishi Sunak. Credit: PA

“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.

“As Prime Minister I have an obligation to do what I think is the right thing for our country in the long term.

"That is why I am taking bold action to ban disposable vapes – which have driven the rise in youth vaping – and bring forward new powers to restrict vape flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops.

“Alongside our commitment to stop children who turn 15 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes, these changes will leave a lasting legacy by protecting our children’s health for the long term.”

The UK government, along with the Welsh and Scottish governments, intend to introduce legislation to ban disposable vapes due to their significant environmental impacts, according to the Welsh Government.

This includes both nicotine and non-nicotine products.

In Northern Ireland, the decision must be agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, which is not sitting after powersharing at Stormont collapsed almost two years ago.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health noted the UK government’s plans and said: “The department will make the necessary preparations to allow incoming ministers and the NI Assembly to take a decision on introducing the regulations in Northern Ireland.”

Under the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, the government plans to introduce legislation so children turning 15 this year or younger can never legally be sold tobacco – to bring about the “first smokefree generation”.

Some £30 million new funding a year will be provided to bolster enforcement agencies – including Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Trading Standards – to implement these measures.

Lynne Neagle, the Welsh Government’s deputy minister for mental health and wellbeing, said: “We want to take all actions possible to stop young people from starting smoking in the first place, to prevent youth vaping and to tackle the effects single-use vapes are having on our environment.”

Jenni Minto, Scotland’s public health minister, said: “I have worked closely with circular economy minister Lorna Slater on disposable vapes.

“These are a threat to both public health and the environment – from litter on our streets, to the risk of fires in waste facilities – that’s why we will act on our Programme for Government commitment and move to ban them.”

'Vapes should only ever be used as a tool to quit smoking,' said Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins. Credit: PA

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Smoking is still the single largest preventable cause of death in England. Almost every minute of every day someone is admitted to hospital with a smoking-related disease. And it costs society £17 billion each year – putting a huge burden on our NHS.

“That’s why we are driving the way forward through our smokefree generation plan, which will prevent our children from starting this dangerous habit.

“The health advice is clear, vapes should only ever be used as a tool to quit smoking. But we are committed to doing more to protect our children from illicit underage vaping, and by banning disposable vapes we’re preventing children from becoming hooked for life.”

Vapes should only be used by adults as a tool to quit smoking and they contribute to an extra 50,000-70,000 smoking quits a year in England, the Government said.

As part of the government’s Swap to Stop scheme, almost one in five of all adult smokers in England will have access to a vape kit alongside behavioural support to help them quit the habit.

Chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty said: “If passed, this legislation would have a major public health impact across many future generations.”

The ban also aims to have a positive impact on the environment as five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week, up from 1.3 million from last year.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Not only are disposable vapes often targeted, unacceptably, at children – they also represent a huge and growing stream of hard-to-recycle waste, with nearly five million thrown away every week.

“This historic announcement will be a powerful tool in support of our efforts to crack down on waste and boost recycling, as well as helping to create the first smokefree generation.”

HMRC estimates that the illicit tobacco trade costs the UK economy around £2.8 billion a year in lost revenue – money that should fund public services.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...