Cancer Focus NI responds to UK single-use vape ban

Disposable (single-use) vapes are set to be banned in the UK, following an announcement from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today. The ruling follows a UK-wide consultation launched by the UK Department of Health and Social Care on smoking and vaping, which ran from 12 October – 6 December, 2023. The ban corresponds with additional efforts to advance a smokefree generation and to address youth nicotine use, among them a new, progressive age of sales ban on tobacco products; restrictions on vape flavours, packaging, and sales placements; and regulations for other nicotine products, such as nicotine pouches. Application of the rules in Northern Ireland is under consideration but is pending a restoration of the devolved legislature.

Responding to the ban announcement, Cancer Focus NI Health Improvement Manager Naomi Thompson comments:

“We are glad to see action taken to confront the skyrocketing use of vapes by young people. Single-use (disposable) vapes are often the “gateway” product into vaping, making it easy to start using. As a result, they are often used by both non-smokers and young people. Once used, they get thrown away, adding plastic to our landfills and creating risks from lithium battery disposal. We hope this ban will deter new e-cigarette users and reduce the environmental damage these products can cause.

“At the same time, we are conscious that some smokers use vapes to quit tobacco and whilst is it best to neither smoke nor vape, vaping can be a step towards quitting tobacco. If disposable vapes are not available, rechargeable / refillable vapes can be used instead if that is the method chosen to quit smoking.

“This ban and the additional regulations have the potential to reduce the number of new e-cigarette users, especially those who are young, and we encourage NI legislators to also pass regulations on single-use vapes and protect our young people from nicotine addiction. We need Stormont back to pass these – and other – health measures.”

In Northern Ireland, 9% of adults are reported to use e-cigarette or vaping devices in 2022/2023, up from 7% of adults in 2021/2022. Meanwhile, the 2022 Young Persons Survey on Substance Use found that a fifth of young people (21%) have used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once, with the proportion of Year 12 students that use these devices more than doubling since 2016. Although the long-term effects of vaping on health are not yet known, most disposable vapes contain high levels of nicotine that can be highly addictive; involve the inhalation of unknown substances into lungs; and contribute to environmental and plastic waste.

Read the responses from Cancer Focus NI to the 2023 smokefree generation consultation here and the charity’s key messages for a Smokefree Northern Ireland here. Learn more about and sign up for the charity’s stop smoking services here.