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Banning Disposable Vapes is Just a Clickbait Contribution to the Debate

Banning Disposable Vapes is Just a Clickbait Contribution to the Debate

The Local Government Association has called for a ban on disposable vapes by 2024. I wanted to reflect on why this group positing this sort of “solution” is a clickbait contribution to the debate on vaping. 

The UK government, and the majority of the public health community, sees vaping as a force for good in reducing smoking levels, and there’s no doubt that the proportion of people who smoke has fallen even more quickly as the vaping market has grown, especially with the rise of disposable vapes. There are also significant challenges related to this market: vapes with too much nicotine or “puffs” being sold despite breaching government regulations, young people accessing these products, and disposable vapes, which contain precious lithium batteries and which are flammable, being discarded wastefully and riskily. It’s absolutely right that these important issues are discussed, and more regulation is likely to form part of how we deal with these products in the future. 

The common thread, however, is enforcement. Shops - including but not solely convenience stores - and online businesses are flagrantly selling vapes that contravene product standards. Try to report these, and the response from trading standards departments is usually zero. Rogue retailers know that they can sell illegal vapes and almost certainly not get caught or face any sanction, so they carry on doing it. 

The same businesses are probably selling vapes to under-18s as well, also with little or no enforcement of the very clear rules prohibiting the sale of vapes to children. So how on earth do we think that rules banning disposable vapes would be enforced? 

Of course the irony at the heart of this is that it’s the same group of people, local councils, who are failing to enforce existing rules yet who are calling for this new intervention. It comes across as if the LGA think once the products are banned they would disappear off the face of the earth and never be seen again. In a market that has developed this quickly, all a knee-jerk ban would actually do would be to stop the legitimate supply of vapes and provide a massive boost to those who are already ignoring the regulations. If there’s any group of people who should know how hard it is to enforce rules like this, it should be local authority officers. 

While selling to under-18s and sourcing illegitimate products is a problem with a minority of rogue businesses, how vapes are recycled affects everyone. Instead of trying to put the genie back in the bottle with an outright ban, it would be far better to involve everyone in the industry in the recovery and recycling of these products, and then actually enforce those rules. Convenience stores are going to have to play their part and bear some costs if we are going to see a step change in the recovery and recycling of these products. 

Councils have a difficult job to do with tight resources and lots of vital services to deliver. The right response to this challenge is to work with industry and consumers to find solutions that will make a meaningful difference to recycling rates, achieved in a way that reduces the risk of accidental fires and recovers more of the materials contained in these products. 

When local authorities decide the way to tackle these problems is to dream up blunt policies for clicks, I’m afraid they open themselves to challenge about their inadequate enforcement of the current rules. They need to own their part of the problem here, and to engage in proper solutions. 

This entry was posted by Chris onMon, 24/07/2023 - 11:41
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