Disposable vapes to be banned in UK

May 13, 2024

Smoking image by tomkohhantsuk from Pixabay with additions by Exposure

Aya Pfeufer examines government plans to create a smoke-free generation for those born after 2009

Disposable vapes are to been banned in the UK to stop the increase in youth vaping. The UK Government announced this plan back in January 2024, due to the drastic increase in sales of disposable vapes, and in efforts to reduce the chances of children becoming addicted to nicotine. Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak outlined that it will become illegal to sell vapes to children under 18. Vaping has increased exponentially by “20.8% in 2018 and 27.5% in 2019”, partly due to its price, accessibility, appealing flavours and variety of colours.

E-cigarettes have been excessively marketed towards children and young people to maximise profits. Many vaping companies target the youth with aggressive strategies “via conventional promotions, social media and sponsorships”. The combination of the packaging  and the variety of flavours – from strawberry ice to coffee – makes vaping more appealing to younger generations and raises concerns that this will lead to nicotine addiction. Some vape products have also been shaped as cupcakes or milkshake bottles.

There is much concern over the long-term consequences and side effects of e-cigarettes

In attempts to combat the rise of vaping amongst the youth, the government announced that the new legislation will make efforts to control how vapes are sold to “restrict flavours which are specifically marketed at children” and make sure that vape products have “less appealing packaging”.

“Children shouldn’t be vaping, we don’t want them to get addicted, we still don’t understand the full long-term health impacts,” Sunak said.

There is much concern over the long-term consequences and side effects of e-cigarettes, as much of this information remains unknown. However, studies have shown that frequent vaping “can harm the developing adolescent brain”, and can lead to cellular and molecular alterations. Vaping has also been associated with lung disease, neurodevelopmental disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Nicotine is a significant hazard for people with heart disease and underlying heart conditions, and has the effect of rapidly increasing your heart rate. Nicotine has also caused psychological effects, such as increased anxiety and depression. Risks also include mood disorders and “permanent lowering of impulse control”. Long term, nicotine has the potential to impact how synapses are formed, which can damage areas of the brain that control learning.

Many smokers may end up becoming addicted to vaping instead, as many e-cigarettes contain traces of nicotine

Regardless of numerous findings of the damaging health effects of long-term vaping, it is considered to be ‘less harmful’ than smoking. Although vaping has been used to break the habit of smoking, many smokers may end up becoming addicted to vaping instead, as many e-cigarettes contain traces of nicotine, even the ones claimed to be nicotine-free.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), numerous chemicals, such as carcinogens, heavy metals and acrolein, have been found in ‘nicotine-free’ vapes, all of which are highly addictive.

Mr Sunak stated that it was right that “strong action” was taken to stop children from using vapes. “Nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable.”

Although many healthcare professionals agree with Sunak, he has faced backlash from members of the Conservative Party, who believe it’s unnecessary. Liz Truss, the previous Conservative prime minister, is strongly against Sunak’s plan.

“Banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later will create an absurd situation, where adults enjoy different rights based on their birthdate. A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state,” Truss said.

In April 2024, the House of Commons voted in favour of the Tobacco and Vaping Bill, banning the sale of tobacco, by 383 votes to 67. Nearly 60 Conservative MPs voted against.

Those who use vapes or tobacco products can have strong urges to use them again once they attempt to stop. Here are some tips to prevent this:

1. Try nicotine replacement therapy – this may help how frequently you use e-cigarettes
2. Avoid triggers – places where you most smoked
3. Increase your physical activity, this may help get your mind off smoking and be used as a distraction
4. Find help, online resources, support groups.

The NHS has many services such as guidance on drug treatments.

Talk to Frank is an anti-drug advisory service, providing services to locate counselling.

Smoke free is an online site to give you tips on breaking smoking habits.