UK Headlines have been dominated in recent weeks (Sept 2023) by news of a potential ban on single-use vaping products aka disposable vape bars. The small, brightly coloured vaping devices have been the source of more than a few headaches for both the general public and the authorities attempting to protect them.
Said authorities have ben scrambling to define the best approach in dealing with the many issues created by disposable vapes, from underage vaping to illegal, unregulated stock hitting UK shelves amidst legitimate examples.
The Government is still in consultation over how best to implement new restrictions that could see disposable vape bars removed from shelves entirely. Policymakers appear to be stopping short of a total ban on vaping altogether, The Guardian Reports, with both vaping industry organisations such as the IBVTA (Independent British Vape Trade Association) and healthcare experts including Chief UK Medical Advisor Prof Sir Chris Witty standing behind vaping’s importance in the national tobacco harm reduction effort, provided the right controls are in place.
Prof Witty has stated:
“If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape, and marketing to children is utterly unacceptable.”
Why Are Disposable Vapes Being Potentially Banned In The UK?
If you have ben exploring our blogs, or keeping your eye on the news, you will know that disposable vapes have not be free of problems during their rapid rise to popularity. Three main issues have persisted however: youth access, illegal stock, and environmental damage.
These have compounded the decision to introduce stricter regulations, however the shape these will take remains to be seen pending the outcome of the review being undertaken by the Department of Health and Social Care.
Disposable Vapes Being Used By Under-18’s
Arguably the leading concern surrounding disposable vape bars is that of youth access. Multiple news outlets including the Daily Mail have reported the stark rise in under-18s getting their hands on vaping products, despite this being illegal. Disposable vapes have been found to be the most prevalent device being used by young people, with them becoming viewed as particularly trendy.
The Daily Mail states that:
“While sales of e-cigarettes to under-18s are banned, latest data suggests 11.6 per cent of 11 to 17-year-olds in the UK have already tried vaping.”
NHS digital data shows that since 2021, the percentage of 16–24-year-olds who have vaped daily or regularly has spiked from 11.1% to 15.5%. This correlates with the rise of disposable vapes.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) are the UK’s leading anti-tobacco lobby group and are playing a major role in shaping the nation’s future tobacco control plans alongside the like of the Khan Review. A recent survey by ASH revealed that 1 in 5 15-year-olds had used a disposable vaping device, and that almost half of the 11-17-year-olds surveyed had or were vaping. To make matters worse, these devices were reportedly sold to them illegally from newsagents and even major supermarkets.
Schools across the country were among the first to raise the alarm about the sheer number of vapes being confiscated from pupils, which you can read more about here.
Illegally Imported Disposable Vapes
Illegal disposable vapes have only added to the risk faced by underage users, and indeed all vapers. Any vaping product produced or sold in the UK must adhere to strict safety restrictions.
This includes no nicotine strength higher than 20mg/ml (AKA 2% - the most common disposable vaping strength), strict emissions testing on the e-liquid itself to ensure compliance with TPD/TRPR regulations, and no device can be allowed to hold more than 2ml of e-liquid in total (in disposable vape terms this means it should not deliver more than 600 puffs).
You may have noticed some disposable vape bars however such as Elux Legend and Geek Bar Pro devices tout that they can offer over 3000 puffs. This is a tell-tale sign that the device is an illegal import.
These devices have not been subject to any of the usual safety precautions that legal vaping products must adhere to, however they hide in plain sight as they essentially look like their legitimate equivalents, if sometimes being slightly larger in size.
Alongside the fact that to deliver this many puffs they would need to contain far more than 2ml of vape liquid, many examples have been found to contain as much as 50mg/ml (5%) of nicotine, which would be extremely addictive and potentially harmful should a child access and consume it. Considering that zero testing also means we have no way of knowing what ingredients are in that liquid, and the harm potential only increases.
There have been multiple raids by trading standards on warehouses containing these illegal disposable vapes, however the issue is ongoing. If you are concerned about accidentally using such a device, this guide will help you spot the good from the bad.
Disposable Vapes Are Harmful To The Environment
The Guardian has reported that environmental risk factors are another major driving force behind the potential ban, with independent and official reports flagging some alarming data about the number of disposable vapes being littered.
In the Guardian’s report, it was shared that Material Focus surveyed 5,156 UK adults and 167 16- and 17-year-olds between June and August. They wanted to identify how many single-use vapes were being bought in the UK and how they were disposed of, including preferred recycling solutions.
The research revealed that four times as many single-use vapes are being thrown away in the UK vs 2022, with a staggering five million being binned every week. The valuable finite lithium in their batteries now being wasted would be enough to produce 5000 electric car batteries per year.
Only 17% of people said they recycle single-use vapes, with 73% thrown away and even 1% flushed down the toilet!
Scott Butler, the executive director at Material Focus, said the “problem with single use vapes has gotten further out of control. Single use vapes are a strong contender for being the most environmentally wasteful, damaging and dangerous consumer product ever made”.
He also flagged his concern about the efforts of manufacturers to help reduce the issue of vape waste:
“Very few producers and retailers comply with environmental regulations and put recycling points and systems in place. This all means that too often local authorities are being burdened with the major operational and financial headaches associated with what is now the fastest growing and most dangerous waste stream in the UK, single-use vapes.”
Thankfully this is not true of all vape manufacturers. As highlighted in our Corporate Social Responsibility Policy we take significant efforts at LiQuid to be more ecological and are proud to be able to say that everything we produce is made using renewable energy, our bottles are made from 100% recycled material, and we have extensive recycling schemes in place for all waste. We do however agree with Mr Butler, in that the wider vaping industry and consumers themselves must do more to curb the ecological impact of our industry and ensure we are sustainable.
There Are Alternatives To Disposable Vapes
If you are using disposable vapes currently and want to make the switch to a more responsible option, then you can still enjoy the same vaping experience by combining the right products.
Refillable pod devices provide the same compact convenience as disposable vapes, and while the cost more initially, they are still very affordable and actually save you money in the long-term. They also only require you to replace pods or coils occasionally, rather than throwing away a full battery every day.
Options like the Innokin Klypse, or Voopoo Argus P1 are fantastic as they have no buttons, and use refillable pods with built in coils, minimising the amount of effort needed to use and maintain them.
Combine this kind of device with a nic salt e-liquid from our Bar Salts range and you will get the same double-concentrated flavour and a smooth hit, just as you would from a disposable – the difference you know that our e-liquids are produced right herein the UK, to strict safety standards using fully traceable ingredients. Not to mention they are £2 for 10ml, vs £6 for a disposable vape bar containing only 2ml.