Industry groups have slammed a looming government plan to ban disposable vapes, warning it is a threat to public health.
Health ministers are set to announce a ban on disposable vapes in response to growing concerns that the brightly coloured and heavily flavoured devices are enticing those under 18.
The decision is expected to be unveiled in a health department consultation as soon as next week, according to a report by The Telegraph.
While the move aims to curb youth addiction, it stops short of Australia’s outright vaping ban, accepting the benefits of e-cigarettes for smokers seeking to quit.
But some say the single-use ban is still a backwards step in Britain’s health goals.
Simon Clark, director of smokers lobbying group Forest, said it is a “significant own goal” for the government.
“Vaping has been a huge success story, with millions of smokers choosing to switch to a product that is far less risky to their health. Part of that success is due to disposable vapes which are convenient and easy to use.
“The answer to the problem of children vaping is not to ban a product many adults use to help them quit smoking, but to crack down on retailers who are breaking the law and selling e-cigarettes to anyone under 18,” he explained.
Maxwell Marlow, director of research at right wing think tank the Adam Smith Institute, agreed, saying that, if the ban is successful, the government “can kiss goodbye to Smoke Free 2030”.
“Banning these vapes will have the opposite effect to the one the department desires, fuelling the black market economy and making enforcement more difficult,” Marlow said.
The ban could also be bad news for tobacco companies relying on vapes to puff up falling sales as younger generations increasingly shun tobacco.
A spokesperson from British tobacco company Imperial Brands, which also sell vaping products, said: “Rather than prohibition, we believe that government, industry, and enforcement authorities must work together to create a regulatory framework which supports the role vapes can play in helping adult smokers quit and, at the same time, prevents the appeal and access of products to youth.
“An integrated, multi-pronged approach is needed to drive out irresponsible actors and improve trust in this important product category.”
Last year, the chief growth officer at British American Tobacco (BAT) said the UK must move away from the “quit or die” approach to smoking and invest more in less harmful alternatives like vaping.
Although environmental groups might be happy with the plans to ditch the plastic vapes, often seen strewn across streets, online vaping shop The Electronic Cigarette Company (TECC) said they are a “gateway” for more sustainable models.
TECC admit disposable vapes can have negative effects on the environment if not recycled but said there is “growing evidence” to suggest adult smokers switch to rechargeable vapes soon after trying out single-use versions.
In May, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said a new government crackdown on vape marketing will prevent the “unacceptable” targeting of children and young people.
It came amid concerns over the proportion of children trying e-cigarettes, with ministers citing NHS figures from 2021 that showed nine per cent of 11-15 year olds used e-cigarettes, up from six per cent in 2018.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are concerned about the rise in youth vaping and the environmental impacts of disposable vapes.
“That is why we launched a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products – and explore where the government can go further.
“We will set out our response in due course.”