UK ministers set to ban single-use vapes over child addiction fears

UK ministers are reportedly poised to announce a nationwide ban on single-use vapes in the coming week. With their considerable ecological impact considered in discussions, the chief concern is that children are becoming addicted.

Thred Media
3 min readSep 13, 2023

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Your local off license is about to become a lot less colourful in the coming weeks, if reports are to be believed.

After much umming and ahing, UK ministers are reportedly on the cusp of finally following through with a nationwide ban on single-use vapes before the end of the month. That’s right, soon a walk down Oxford Street may no longer be synonymous with breathing in secondary plumes of ‘Pineapple Ice’.

Since their commercial explosion in 2019, ‘Elf Bar’ and ‘Lost Mary’ devices in particular have become arguably the largest ecological scourge of Europe.

A reported five million vapes are said to be disposed of every week in the UK alone, which is roughly a fourfold increase on the volume of 2022. Suffice to say, they’re popular and not going anywhere without intervention.

Scott Butler, an executive director at electronics recycling firm Material Focus, describes single-use vapes as ‘a strong contender for being the most environmentally wasteful, damaging, and dangerous consumer product ever made.’

Despite the harrowing reality that some eight vapes are thrown away every second — along with enough lithium to create 5,000 electric car batteries a year — the real sticking point for the Department of Health and Social Care has always been the packaging.

Specifically, its ministers believe the flamboyant colours and flavour combinations instantly visible at the front of most sweet shops have been calculatingly designed to coax young people into nicotine addiction. Looking at the data, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

Since 2021, the proportion of 11 to 18-year-olds vaping (7.6%) has been greater than those smoking (3.6%), and 20% of the entire demographic is said to have at least tried a single-use device.

In July, MPs urged the government to introduce wholesale restrictions to the marketing of disposable vapes, but the UK has thus-far lagged behind other countries in that regard.

Germany has already prohibited all flavored e-cigarettes, New Zealand removed the majority of vape companies from rotation — introducing marketing restrictions for those remaining — and France announced a blanket ban on all single-use vapes earlier this month.

Better late than never, the UK is due to show its hand in the next week or so with all signs pointing to an inevitable wipe-out.

Ministers have already ratified that prescription e-cigarettes for recovering smokers will not be lumped in with any new ruling. Single-use vapes, on the other hand, have proven a complete net-negative as a substitute for tobacco.

Whether you’re disgruntled or elated by this news, it appears single-use vapes are now officially on borrowed time in the UK. Don’t shoot the messenger, even if the messenger finds it very funny.

One day, a 35-year-old with gum disease and acute pneumonia will look back on the sugary frenzy between 2019 and 2023 and wonder: ‘Was the cherry “Unicorn Shake” really worth it?’

Originally written by Jamie Watts for Thred.

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