Public Health England has consistently insisted that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking, leading the UK government to embrace it as a vital tool in achieving a smoke-free England by 2030. This has also led to the nation achieving the lowest smoking rate every recorded locally to date.
Banning disposables may undo some of the progress achieved by the UK
Despite this, the UK government has just announced that it will be pressing on with a recently proposed ban on disposable vaping products. Experts in the field oppose this ban, describing as a misguided policy that may harm public health efforts and worsen health inequalities. Michael Landl, Director of the WVA (World Vapers Alliance), warns that banning disposable vapes could drive current vapers back to more harmful smoking habits or towards the black market, jeopardizing the health of millions.
In line with this, research from UCL and King’s College London suggests the ban could impact approximately 2.6 million people, slowing the decline in smoking prevalence and disproportionately affecting disadvantaged groups. To this effect, this ban is seen as counterproductive, restricting access to a crucial tool for smokers transitioning to safer alternatives.
The WVA urges the UK government to reconsider, advocating for evidence-based approaches, robust age restriction enforcement, and a deeper understanding of vaping motivations, especially among teenagers.
Vape bans lead to increased smoking rates
MP Lewer emphasizes the success of harm reduction strategies, citing examples like New Zealand’s 33% reduction in adult smoking after legalizing vaping and Australia’s 4.5% increase in smoking following a ban on recreational vaping. Similarly until now, thanks to its evidence-based and science-led approach the UK had seen positive results, notably in regions like Northampton South, where reduced-risk products contribute to significant reductions in smoking.
The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has also expressed its disappointment over the government’s decision to ban disposable vapes, attributing them to the record-low smoking rates and aiding millions of adults in quitting cigarettes. The association considers the move as a desperate attempt to garner votes ahead of the General Election, potentially sacrificing vapers.
The UKVIA argues that banning disposables may boost the black market, making it easier for minors to access illicit vapes. The association emphasizes effective law enforcement rather than counterproductive bans to address youth vaping, proposing a licensing scheme to deter rogue traders.
Referring to the research from University College London, the UKVIA highlighted that the health entity called for the use of a range of flavours, including fruit flavours to enable smoking cessation in adults, stating: “The use of flavours by adults trying to quit smoking is an integral part of the effectiveness of vaping as a quit aid. Government should restrict flavour descriptors rather than flavours themselves.”
The UKVIA warns that the ban may hand the regulated vaping market to criminals, citing Australia’s experience with strict regulations leading to a surge in illegal vape purchases. Economic repercussions and increased burdens on the NHS are also anticipated, with an increase on the current £2.4 billion yearly expenditure on smoking-related conditions being expected.