In Great Britain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a ban on disposable e-cigarettes as part of plans to curb smoking among young people, which is cause for alarm. “As every parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends at the moment is the increase in vaping among children, and so we must act before it becomes endemic,” the Prime Minister said in a note issued by Downing Street.
Measures will also be introduced to prevent the marketing of vaporizers to children and to target sales to minors. Health Secretary Victoria Atkins told the BBC she was confident the new bill would be approved by Parliament by the general election – scheduled for this year – with it coming into force in early 2025. Once the timeline is confirmed, retailers will be given six months to implement the law.
According to Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), 7.6% of 11-17 year olds in Britain now vape regularly or occasionally, up from 4.1% in 2020. The bill could be introduced using existing legislation aimed at protecting the environment.
Activists have long argued that disposable vapes are wasteful and that the materials and chemicals used to make them, including lithium batteries, make them difficult to dispose of safely. The latest changes would also introduce the power to prevent the sale of refillable vapes in a flavor marketed towards children and to require them to be produced in simpler, less attractive packaging.
The government will also be able to require stores to display refillable vaporizers out of sight of children and away from other products they might purchase, such as sweets. A further public consultation will take place to decide which flavors should be banned and how refillable vapes will be sold, the government said.
Among the kid-friendly vape flavors currently available are those inspired by cookies, jam and energy drinks.
To help stop sales to under-18s, further fines will also be introduced for any shops in England and Wales caught illegally selling vapes to children. It is already illegal to sell any type of vaporizer to anyone under 18 in Britain, but the government says disposable ones – often sold in smaller, more colorful packages than refillable ones – are a “key driver behind the ‘alarming increase in youth vaping’.
Vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, but the practice has not been around long enough to know its long-term risks precisely, the NHS has highlighted. Inhaled vapor may still contain small amounts of chemicals found in cigarettes, including nicotine, which is addictive but is not seen by the NHS as one of the most problematic ingredients in cigarettes.
Last year the sale of cigarettes to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009 was banned, as part of a bid to create a “smoke-free generation”. In the rest of Europe, after Germany and Belgium, France will also ban disposable electronic cigarettes starting this year, as they are too dangerous for very young people who use them extensively.