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Should Disposable Vapes Be Banned?

Should Disposable Vapes Be Banned? thumbnail

Wed 5 Apr 2023

Since disposable vapes became popular around 18 months ago, there have been calls from various people, from a wide range of positions in society, for them to be banned.

But why? In this article we will explore why some want an outright ban on these products, and why others think that would be a bad idea.

What are disposable vapes?

Before we get into the pros and cons, let's have a look at what disposable vapes actually are.

Many years ago, when vaping was first starting to become popular, disposable vapes were very common. They usually consisted of a small battery (that often looked like a cigarette) and a cartridge (which sometimes resembled a cigarette filter) that contained a small amount of e liquid. The user would vape the cartridge until it was empty and then throw the device away. Simple.

Modern disposable vapes work in a similar way, although they look and feel much different from the devices of yesteryear.

First of all, they’re usually brightly coloured and contain a high nicotine salt based e liquid (salt nicotine just wasn’t a thing all those years ago). They also work more efficiently than older disposables and produce far more vapour and flavour.

Speaking of flavour, modern disposable vapes are available in a wide variety of flavours, whereas older ones were pretty much just tobacco or menthol.

The end result is the same though: The user vapes all the liquid and then throws the whole thing away.

So why are some people calling for a ban?

Arguments For Banning Disposables:

1) They’re getting children into nicotine products:

“Won’t somebody please think of the children?!” is a classic line from The Simpsons but it’s often the first argument that comes up when people discuss making something illegal. It’s pretty much undisputed that the number of under 18s vaping has gone up significantly in the past couple of years (rising in line with the popularity of disposables).

The bright colours and attractive flavours have been blamed on encouraging minors to start vaping disposable e cigarettes. However, there is already a law restricting nicotine liquids to over 18s in the UK and many other places. It’s just not being enforced correctly. Also, underage teens getting hold of products they shouldn’t have is nothing new. Most smokers start before they’re 18, and most of you reading this won’t have waited until your 18th birthday before trying alcohol for the first time.

2) Illegal vapes on the market

In the past year there has been a sharp rise in the number of disposable vapes getting confiscated for not meeting the legal requirements in the UK and EU.

UK and EU law states that nicotine liquid vapes should not contain more that 2ml of the liquid and that the liquid should not be more than 20mg nicotine strength. The flavours also have to pass a series of safety tests that prohibit certain ingredients.

While most disposable e cigarettes on shop shelves in the UK meet these requirements, illegal versions of these products are becoming more common.

The manufacturers of disposable vapes also make similar devices for other market places such as the USA and China. The same restrictions do not apply in many other territories, but vapes that are not meant to be for the UK/EU are clearly making their way into the country and into the hands of customers.

3) The environmental cost

This is the main reason why we at ELFC do not, and will not, stock disposable vapes. In a world where we’re trying to reach net-zero for carbon emissions and constantly looking for new ways to be more sustainable, disposable e cigarettes look like a significant backwards step.

Despite recent efforts by disposable vape manufacturers and retailers to offer recycling programs, the fact remains that the vast majority of these devices are used once then thrown away. This means more plastics and batteries ending up in landfill.

Arguments Against Banning Disposables:

1) They’re an easy way for smoking to switch to vaping

Let’s face it, giving up smoking is hard enough as it is without having to think about coils, liquid, a battery etc. Disposables do give smokers an easy access point to vaping. You buy it then use it. It couldn’t be simpler. Much like buying a packet of cigarettes.

Thankfully there are a lot of small vape kits around from the likes of OXVA and Vaporesso that are pretty much foolproof for new and experienced vapers alike. Many new vapers find themselves moving onto smaller refillable kits like this after using disposables for a short time. Disposables can easily be the most expensive way to vape.

2) An alternative for social smokers

Most of us know someone who does not smoke regularly, but does enjoy smoking every now and then, particularly on social occasions. Disposable vapes have started to be an alternative to those occasional cigarettes.

Social smokers don’t need to have their own mod, tank etc. as they may only use it a few times a year. Disposables solve this problem. To discourage people from smoking in or outside their premises, many nightclubs in Spain have started selling (or sometimes even giving away) disposable vapes to their customers.

The MHRA says that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, and smoking tobacco is harmful whether you smoke 20 a day or 20 a year. It cannot be a bad thing for social smokers to switch to a healthier alternative.

3) Why ban a safer alternative to tobacco?

Vaping is safer than smoking. That is the widely held position of the medical community including the NHS and MHRA in the UK. Over the past few years vaping has played a massive role in tobacco harm reduction around the world.

Many would argue that this is the strongest reason not to ban disposable vapes. If people don’t have an accessible alternative, won’t they just go back to smoking tobacco?

The Prescription Only Model

One idea that has been proposed by several medical institutions around the world is the prescription only model. Whereby a smoker would be prescribed disposable vapes for a short period of time to help them quit. Then if they wanted to continue vaping after the week/month disposables trial, they would need to buy their own refillable vape kit.

This model does solve the issue of children vaping and would also cut down massively on the plastic waste caused by disposable vapes. But it does have problems, the main one being that it opens the door to all vapes being prescription only. This would stifle innovation and make vaping much less accessible for smokers. Also, the vaping industry employs a lot of people, and taking away a significant section of the market and moving it under the umbrella of pharmaceutical prescription would negatively impact on the industry and the jobs that depend on it.

Whatever your thoughts are on disposable vapes, the issue is regulation is clearly a complicated one.

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