During a growing media frenzy surrounding disposable vapes, prohibitionists are demanding a blanket ban on the products. Their arguments are riddled with many of the predictable nanny statist flaws that usually would not need exposing. However, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pledging to consider a ban, it’s time to challenge these misguided claims. A ban would severely undermine health, considering these products are saving thousands of lives each year.
One of the key arguments that prohibitionists make is that single use disposable vapes are bad for the environment. While it is true that disposable vapes are made of plastic and contain lithium batteries, the threats are overblown. Hundreds of other products from remote controls to phones contain the same materials but both are recyclable. Nobody would ever consider a ban on those products, thus completely undermining the pollution argument.
The fervour around the environmental impact of vapes (despite their recyclability) can be attributed to the fault of retailers. The provision of recycling facilities is mandated by the government, yet most retailers fail to do so. The result is that consumers are either unaware that vapes should be recycled or find it difficult to do so.
A parallel can be drawn to the car industry. When Volkswagen was found to have breached emission standards, the solution wasn’t to ban all cars, or even the particular models, but to ensure that standards were upheld. Similarly, the issue lies with the enforcement of retailers, not legitimate products produced by the vaping industry. It is disingenuous to make arguments for banning disposable vapes based on environmental concerns rather than addressing the core enforcement problem.
This constant clamour for prohibition reveals the true intentions of those pushing for it. For many, concern for the environment is just a mask for their irrational dislike of vaping. They ignore the societal benefits that vapes and e-cigarettes offer and just see disposables as a first step in banning vaping entirely. In a recent speech to Policy Exchange, Government Minister Neil O’Brien admitted that “Vapes are not currently being widely used enough to fulfil their full potential as a smoking quit aid.” If we truly aspire to achieve a Smokefree UK by 2030, banning disposable vapes would be a detrimental step backwards. Thankfully the government understands this.
Disposable vapes play a pivotal role for many as they switch from cigarettes. Potential ex-smokers can test the waters with disposables without committing to refillable devices which are a greater financial commitment, especially considering smoking is heavily centred in more deprived communities.
Moreover, banning single use vapes would exclude whole sections of society from being able to make the switch away from cigarettes. Older people and those with accessibility issues like arthritis often find disposables much easier to use than refillables. Refillables often require disassembling and reassembling fiddly components, making them cumbersome for these groups. Homeless populations, where smoking is rife, lack access to power sources needed to charge the devices. A ban on single use vapes would create barriers to better health for some of the most disadvantaged individuals in our society.
If the UK is serious about achieving its smoke-free goal by 2030, the vaping industry should not be stifled; it should be embraced. Encouraging smokers to try disposable vapes or other alternatives can provide a crucial stepping stone towards a permanent switch. The government’s recent refreshed approach to tackle cigarette use demonstrates that common sense thinking towards improving public health is alive. The Labour leader would do well to continue this if he is successful in his pursuit of Number 10.