Disposable vapes became an instant hit, with many vapers adopting them for their convenience and ease of use. This success saw the market explode, with up to 7.7 million sold every week.

The sheer popularity of disposable vapes has ensured that they’re a hot topic within the industry, with issues such as illicit market vapes, underage vaping and environmental impact coming to the fore.

The previous Conservative Government, which describes disposable vapes as ‘those that are not rechargeable, not refillable or that are neither rechargeable nor refillable’, were considering a variety of ways to tackle these challenges, and had announced plans to ban disposable vapes in the UK.

Are disposable vapes being banned?

The previous Tory Government had made it clear that their intention was to ban the supply and sale of disposable vapes, however this is now in question following the call for a general election. Unlike the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which has now been abandoned, the proposed disposable vapes ban was secondary legislation to be brought in under The Environmental Protection Act. This means it follows a different path, and as the statutory instrument had not been tabled before the call for a general election, it will not be passing into law as things currently stand. We will not know whether the reformed Government plans to pursue the proposed ban until the next parliamentary session opens.

They Government first announced plans to ban disposable vapes in the UK on 29 January 2024, and this would have included England, Scotland, and Wales, and may have also been considered in Northern Ireland in the future.

The aim of this ban was to tackle youth vaping and protect children’s health, although many were disappointed with the decision feeling that it was a knee-jerk reaction that does not proportionally balance the need to tackle youth vaping with the need to provide adult smokers and vapers with the stop smoking tools they need to quit smoking and remain smoke-free.

UK Government draft regulations

On 11 March 2024 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published a draft of The Environmental Protection (Single-use Vapes) (England) Regulations 2024 Statutory Instrument alongside an accompanying draft Explanatory Memorandum. Because the proposed ban would be introduced using powers from the Environment Act, the policy background takes a primarily environmental impact view on the need for the ban, however the concerns of underage vaping are also addressed.

These two draft documents outlined the proposed ban on the supply and sale of both nicotine-containing and nicotine-free disposable vapes, providing the scope, framework, and proposed penalties for the ban. While the draft from the UK Government would use the same Environment Act to impose the ban, the penalties their draft proposes are much more detailed and complex than those in the Scottish draft, and includes fixed monetary penalties and compliance notices, stop notices, and non-compliance penalties.

The draft also goes further to outline the definitions of single-use vapes, which are explained as any vape which is:

  • (a) not refillable
  • (b) not rechargeable, or
  • (c) not refillable and not rechargeable

For the purpose of (a) and (c), a vape is not refillable unless:

  • it is designed to include a single-use container which is separately available and can be replaced, or
  • a container which can be refilled

For the purpose of (b) and (c), a vape is not rechargeable unless if it is designed to contain

  • a battery which cannot be recharged, or
  • a coil which is not intended to be replaced by the user in the normal course of use, including any coil which is contained in a single-use cartridge or pod which is not separately available and cannot be replaced.

These draft regulations were open to consultation until 25 March 2024, and the statutory instrument specifies that it will follow affirmative procedure, meaning it must be approved by both Houses of Parliament in order to come into law. Parliament was prorogued on 24 May 2024 and the statutory instrument had not been tabled, however it may still be tabled by the reformed government at the start of the next parliamentary session.

Scottish Government draft legislation

On 23 February 2024 the Scottish Government published their draft legislation entitled 'The Environmental Protection (Single-use Vapes) (Scotland) Regulations 2024', which was open for consultation until 8th March. This legislation, as in England, would be imposed using powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and while each individual nation within the UK needs to produce their own legislation the Scottish Government have revealed that all governments had agreed on a set date for the proposed ban to come into force.

You can read our statement on the decision in our blog post ‘Evapo respond to UK disposable vape ban’.

When are disposable vapes going to be banned in the UK?

A press release had previously revealed that the UK Governments had worked together to agree on 1 April 2025 as the date that a ban on the sale and supply of disposable vapes would come into effect. This would have included a six month period for retailers to phase out existing stock. However, the general election means that the disposable vapes ban is now in question, and we will not know whether it will be laid before parliament until the new government is formed. What we do know is that, even if the reformed Government do pursue a ban on disposable vapes, it is unlikely that the original proposed date of 1 April 2025 will still stand.

While the Conservative manifesto makes no mention of whether they plan to push forward with the disposable vape ban, the Liberal Democrat manifesto specifically states that they plan to ban the sale of single-use vapes should they come into power. The Labour manifesto is yet to be released.

The original UK Government announcement also included plans for new powers to restrict vaping flavours, introduce standardised packaging, and regulate point of sale displays. On 20 March the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was introduced to Parliament, seeking the powers to introduce these regulations. However, the bill had not completed its path through Parliament when the call was made for a general election, and as it was not included in the two day 'wash-up' this bill has now been abandoned and will not be coming into UK law.

The UK is not alone in its desire to address issues around underage vaping. New Zealand ushered in a variety of new regulations around vaping and smoking in June 2023, including measures such as banning the opening of vaping shops in the immediate vicinity of schools. The NZ health ministry also introduced policies around the advertisement of flavours. Ireland, Germany and France are all among EU member states also currently considering actions around the restriction or banning of disposable vapes.

The rationale behind calls for a vape ban

Convenient, affordable and lightweight, disposable vapes are incredibly popular. In some ways, they are a victim of their own success, as the high pick-up numbers have led to questions around their roles in encouraging underage vaping as well as examinations of their environmental impact.

Underage vaping

Concerns around underage vaping have been a big driving factor in discussions that have led to talks of a disposable vapes ban.

There are a number of potential legislations that could be put in place to mitigate the attraction of vaping to younger consumers, including tighter restrictions around sales and the regulation of certain designs or flavours.

Environmental concerns

In July 2023, the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, called for a ban on disposable vapes, citing environmental grounds. It claimed that single-use vapes, such as Elf bars and Lost Mary, were a hazard for waste and litter collection. This is due to the fact that the majority of single-use vapes are designed as single units, which makes it difficult or impossible for the battery to be removed and recycled. The lithium batteries commonly used in disposable vapes can become flammable if crushed, damaged or overheated.

The Government revealed that five million single-use vapes are either littered or thrown away each week, a figure which has quadrupled in the last year.

With 1.3 million vapes being thrown away every week, their popularity is clear to see. While Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board called for a ban as a way to reduce littering, he also said: “Councils are not anti-vapes, which are shown to be less harmful than smoking and have a place as a tool to use in smoking cessation.”

At Evapo, we understand the big benefits that switching to vaping can have for adults who’re giving up smoking. We adhere strictly to the current regulations around the sale of disposable vapes and e-liquids and are strongly focused on creating a sustainable ecosystem for vaping. For example, we offer drop-off spots in our premises, where people can safely drop off old devices or batteries for recycling, and have published information on how to recycle vaping products, including disposable vapes.

A timeline of the proposed disposable vape ban

  • 11 April 2023 – An eight week ‘Youth vaping: call for evidence’ is issued in order to identify ways to reduce youth access to vape products. The Government receives 441 responses from individual citizens and organisations.
  • 12 October 2023 – The ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping’ public consultation is opened to responses from the general public.
  • 7th November 2023The King’s speech announces plans for a 'Tobacco and Vapes Bill' which would give the Government new power to create legislation.
  • 6 December 2023 – The public consultation is closed so responses can be collated.
  • 28 January 2024 – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces a proposed ban on disposable vapes, along with other measures to tackle youth vaping.
  • 29 January 2024 – The full consultation outcome is published, having received 28,000 responses, and the Government outlines other measures that will be be considered.
  • 23 February 2024 – The Scottish Government release draft legislation on the proposed disposable vape ban, including the agreed date of 1 April 2025 when a ban on the sale and supply will come into effect.
  • 8 March 2024 - The Scottish Government consultation on draft legislation closes.
  • 11 March 2024 - The UK Government publish their draft Statutory Instrument 'The Environmental Protection (Single-use Vapes) (England) Regulations 2024' and Explanatory Memorandum, outlining the scope for a ban on the supply and sale of single-use vapes.
  • 25 March 2024 - The UK Government consultation on their draft regulation closed.
  • 22 May 2024 - Rishi Sunak calls for a general election which will be held on 4 July.
  • 24 May 2024 - Government went into prorogation, at which point the statutory instrument had not been laid before Parliament.
  • 30 May 2024 - Parliament was dissolved.
  • 1 April 2025 - The previously proposed date set out in draft legislation for the ban on the sale and supply of disposable vapes to come into effect in the UK, which is unlikely to remain.

The disposable vape ban could affect 1 in 7 young adults

The proposed disposable vape ban came right of the back of a study by University College London researchers, published in the journal Public Health, finding that disposable vapes are an important stop smoking tool for young adults aged 18-24. Based on the responses of 69,973 adults across England, Wales, and Scotland, research identified a significant increase in the amount of adults using disposable vapes. Between January 2021 and August 20.23, disposable vape use rose from 0.1% to 4.9%, and the increase was particularly pronounced among 18-24 year olds.

While use among those who have never smoked remained low in 2023 at 1.5%, the use among current smokers was 16.3% and those who had recently stopped was 18.2%.

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, explained:

“Our study suggests a ban on disposable e-cigarettes would affect an estimated 2.6 million people in England, Wales and Scotland.

“This group includes 1.2 million people who currently smoke and would benefit from switching to e-cigarettes completely, and a further 744,000 who previously smoked and may be at risk of relapse.”

The research team, funded by Cancer Research UK, found that a ban on disposable vapes would therefore affect one in seven young adults, and one in twenty adults overall. They also note that these numbers may well be an under-estimate, as the survey results are based on the type of e-cigarette participants reported they mainly used, so those who use disposable vapes as a secondary product would not have been captured. This suggests that, although a ban may be effective at targeting underage vaping, it could well have a significant knock-on effect for adult users.

Senior author Professor Jamie Brown further explained:

“There is a need for action to reduce disposable vaping among young people who have never smoked. However, trade-offs need to be carefully considered.

"A ban may discourage use of e-cigarettes among people trying to quit smoking and may induce relapse among those who have already used disposables to quit. Cigarettes are far more harmful to our health and are not currently banned and a ban on disposable e-cigarettes may signal to large numbers of people that these products are worse for our health or that their harm is comparable to that caused by smoking tobacco.”

The paper goes on to outline other measures that could better balance the need to prevent youth vaping, with the need to ensure adult smokers have access to effective harm-reduction products. These include prohibiting branding that is appealing to children, such as sweet names and cartoon characters, and keeping e-cigarettes in shops out of sight and reach of children.

Marcus Saxton, Chair of the Independent British Vape Trade Association, responded to these finding, saying:

“[This research] shows the critical role that single use vapes are playing in helping the 6.4 million smokers in the UK to quit and the risks of introducing bans. The vape industry stands ready to work with government to implement a proportionate regulatory regime, but introducing knee-jerk and unevidenced bans is not the solution. It’s simple – bans do not work.”

Mr Saxton expressed concerns about the effect that a single-use vape ban could have on the illicit market in the UK, explaining:

"Introducing bans on single-use vapes and flavours, will have hugely damaging consequences including making it harder for smokers to quit and will push those that have quit, back into smoking.

"Further, with an estimated third of the UK vape market comprising illicit products, any ban will simply benefit those pushing illegal and unregulated product as people seek out single-use and flavoured products from illicit sources."

Research commissioned by an IBVTA member supports this, finding that if single-use vapes were banned 38% of smokers and recent ex-smokers who are currently using e-cigarettes would either smoke more, switch back to smoking, or resort to purchasing illicit vapes. This works out to more than 1 million adult smokers and recent ex-smokers.

The poor example set by Australia’s vape ban

Selling nicotine-containing vapes has been illegal in Australia since 2021, and they are instead provided through prescriptions to help users quit smoking and manage their nicotine dependence. However, retailers throughout Australia have continued to sell vaping products illegally since with minimal repercussions.

In an attempt to tackle this, the Australian Government made it illegal to import any disposable vapes into the country as of January 1st 2024. Within just one week it was clear that this too has not been a success. The illicit market for disposable vapes in Australia has boomed, and they have remained easily accessible. One Daily Mail reporter spotted at least 20 locations selling illegal vaping products, and found that the main consequences of the new law is a significant price hike in vapes due to the increased risks in importing and selling them, and a disregard for age verification during their sale.

Brain Marlow, Director of Legalise Vaping Australia, revealed that over 90% of the vapes being sold in Australia are illicit market, and ironically, while disposable vapes have never been legal in Australia they are now more readily available than ever. Speaking on how to tackle this flourishing illicit market, he advises:

“Australia should be following the lead of New Zealand, the UK and the rest of the world when it comes to vaping laws, allow the sale of high quality vapes and regulate them in the same way we regulate other adult-only products like alcohol.

“Doing this will allow adults to access safer products that won't have sky high nicotine levels... It will also crush the rampant vaping black market the government has created.”

Given the consequences seen in Australia, many fear that a ban on disposable vapes could result in a huge growth of the illicit market in the UK, with non-compliant, unregulated vapes filling the gap.

The advantage of tackling illicit vapes

Ourselves, and many other advocates, have pointed out that tackling the issue of illicit market vapes could go a long way towards tackling youth vaping. It is often the same people who are willingly selling illicit vaping products that are willing to also disregard age verification and sell to underage people.

Some knock off vapes can look very convincing, but that doesn’t mean that they adhere to the strict safety standards that they should. Illicit vapes can be harmful and these counterfeits are partly responsible for a negative perception of vaping and disposable vapes.

Making sure you’re buying from a reputable seller is the best way to protect yourself from buying counterfeits. When you buy from expert retailers like Evapo, you know you are choosing vapes and products that have been thoroughly tested and constructed from high quality components.

Illicit vapes sidestep important regulations

Not only can illicit vapes be made from inferior components, but they may not be following the government’s regulations for e-cigarettes, including requirements such as:

  • A maximum capacity of 2ml for tanks or pods
  • A maximum volume of nicotine-containing e-liquid of 10ml for one refill container
  • Ensuring that nicotine-containing products, or their packaging, is child-resistant and tamper evident
  • All e-cigarettes and e-liquids be notified and published by the MHRA before they can be sold
  • The banning of diacetyl, caffeine, taurine, and certain colourings

The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 introduced these rules as a means not only of setting minimum standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refill containers, but also as a way of creating an environment that protects children and ensures that consumers have enough information to make informed choices.

These regulations and their aims are something we strictly align with, and we fully back efforts to clamp down on the production and sale of counterfeit vapes and believe this should be a strong focus for future legislation, as it ensures that consumers can be confident in the integrity of the vaping devices they choose.

How illicit vapes can endanger younger people

Younger people may not have the same access to information or have the same level of experience as older consumers. This means they are especially vulnerable when it comes to counterfeits. In 2023, the BBC reported that vapes confiscated from school children contained high levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Of the 18 vapes tested, most were illegal and had not gone through any kind of testing before being sold in the UK.

Making the switch from disposable vapes

Refillable and reusable vapes offer a more sustainable way to enjoy the benefits of vaping. Promoting the use of these reusable alternatives and offering vapers guidance on how to make the switch from disposable to reusable devices is one way to reduce waste – and it offers lots of benefits for vapers, too.

A refillable pod kit is a good choice for those who are looking for a way to move on from disposable vapes while still enjoying the benefits of vaping. The beginner-friendly pod kits are convenient and easy to use, making them a natural next step. They have detachable pods which allow you to refill your device with the e-liquid of your choice. Once the coil in the pod starts to burn out, you can replace the pod without having to replace the whole device – significantly cutting down on waste.

Refillable pod vapes also work out as cheaper than disposable vapes, thanks to the fact the device is a one-off purchase. Buying bottles of e-liquid and refilling a pod yourself costs less than buying pre-filled, disposable vapes. There is also an even wider range of flavours and nicotine strengths to choose from.

If you have been using disposable vapes and want to transition to a reusable vape kit, take a look at our alternatives to disposable vapes guide for information on making the switch and which vape kit to choose.

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