What do experts think about the disposable vape ban?

By Josh, Head Of Media
5 FEB 2024

As you may have heard, the UK government is planning to ban disposable vapes. We’ve written plenty about our thoughts on the ban, from what we think could really solve the problems with disposable vapes. But, what do the experts think? Below, we’ve rounded up a set of quotes from doctors, scientists, and tobacco harm reduction and vaping experts who’ve spoken about the ban.

“Substantial unintended consequences for people who smoke”

Dr Sarah Jackson, Principal Research Fellow at UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care

Dr. Jackson and a team of fellow scientists at UCL recently published research looking at who would be affected by a disposable vape ban. “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 researchers say it’s important to support disposable vapers to swap to a different kind of vape instead of returning to smoking. Plus, they found that disposable vapes are more commonly used by those in lower socio-economic classes and those with mental health conditions. “While banning disposables might seem like a straightforward solution to reduce youth vaping, it could have substantial unintended consequences for people who smoke.”

“In the event of a ban, it would be important to encourage current and ex-smokers who use disposables to switch to other types of e-cigarettes rather than going back to just smoking tobacco.”

“We will hold the Government to account for the increased smoking rates, as well as the lives and jobs that will be lost, as a result of their shocking and ill thought through decision today.”

John Dunne, Director General of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA)

The UKVIA is a non-profit organisation which aims to promote responsible, successful vape retailing. Their Director General, John Dunne, says “The answer to youth vaping doesn’t lie in counterproductive bans and restrictions, but rather in effective and proactive enforcement – which is woefully lacking – of the law which states that it is illegal for vapes to be sold to minors.”

Mr. Dunne says that the UKVIA is developing a retailer licensing scheme that will protect responsible vape shops while raising £50 million for Trading Standards to increase enforcement – without costing the taxpayer anything.

“In the meantime, we will hold the Government to account for the increased smoking rates, as well as the lives and jobs that will be lost, as a result of their shocking and ill thought through decision today.”

Regarding a potential flavour ban, Mr. Dunne reminds us that the Royal College of Physicians' position is that “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.”

“Restricting vapes could well turn out to be a mistake”

Professor Peter Hajek, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Health and Lifestyle Research Unit at QMUL

Professor Hajek is well-known worldwide for his expertise on the subject of tobacco dependence, having authored over 250 papers and developed treatments for smokers. He says, “While cigarettes are sold freely, restricting vapes could well turn out to be a mistake. Vaping poses only a small fraction of risks of smoking and the large majority of vapers are adult smokers and ex-smokers. Banning popular vapes and restricting flavours to reduce the attractiveness of others can be harmful if it reduces this flow away from smoking.”

More so, he’s not convinced that a ban on disposable vapes would actually do much to stop children from vaping. “Paradoxically, it could have a negative impact even on young people whom it is meant to protect if it signals that it is safer to smoke than to vape or if it makes cigarettes more attractive than vapes.”

“This move will be counterproductive and will very likely super-charge the black market”

Lee Bryan, CEO of Arcus Compliance

Arcus Compliance assists retailers and manufacturers in meeting their legal obligations. Speaking to publication Talking Retail, he says “I am dismayed at the government’s decision to ban disposable vapes, which have been instrumental in bringing the UK’s smoking rates down and have played a key role in helping millions of adults quit and stay off cigarettes.”

“The industry is aware of the critical need to prevent youth access, but this move appears to be more related to winning votes in an up-and-coming election than protecting youth. This move will be counterproductive and will very likely super-charge the black market and put more pressure on an already under-funded Trading Standards.”

He points out that there are already laws in place to prevent under-18s from vaping. “The government seem to have overlooked the fact that effective and proactive enforcement would be more successful in addressing the youth vaping issue than the route they have taken.”

On a potential flavour ban, Mr. Bryan says “The government must tread extremely carefully when it comes to flavour restrictions. A recent survey conducted by One Poll found that as many as 1.5 million vapers fear they would return to smoking if flavours were banned and 83% of vapers claim that flavours have helped them ‘pack in their smoking habit’.

“The immediacy of a disposable vape makes such a difference”

Dr Ruth Sharrock, Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency, North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care Board

Dr. Sharrock reminds us of an often-overlooked point – disposable vapes are easier to use than refillable ones, which means they’re important for vulnerable people. “Removing disposable vapes from our toolkit would make it harder to support our most vulnerable smokers. Older smokers, people with learning disabilities and others can find it hard to use refillable products straight away. The immediacy of a disposable vape makes such a difference. It is as if we are taking a cigarette out of their hand and replacing it with a vastly safer product.”

“The UK already has a thriving black market for vapes”

Dan Marchant, Director of Vape Club & the founding member of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA)

Dan Marchant, Vape Club Director and founding member of the UKVIA was recently interviewed and asked to give his take on the ban in relation to black market vapes. “Disposable vapes are one of the single most effective methods for smokers to switch to vaping, and the UK already has a thriving black market for illegal disposable vapes. These are often over-capacity, over-strength products which haven’t been through the regulatory processes in the UK to ensure that they’re safe and fit for purpose.

“Unfortunately, there is very little enforcement to curb the growing black market. Trading Standards have had their funding massively eroded over the last decade and simply do not have the resources needed to proactively enforce the rules, so rogue retailers are getting away with breaking the law with almost complete impunity.”

“Of course, we fully agree that vaping products should never be sold to children (this is why we have such rigorous age verification procedures in place), but let's remember that the products are already banned for children and that there are already too many people flouting the rules. Therefore it is absolutely vital that the government ensures proactive enforcement of the law occurs, and that very severe penalties are put in place to punish the criminals who are selling to kids. Without this, the problem is, unfortunately, not going to go away. Regulation without enforcement is the same as having no regulations at all.”

“The UK government is in the process of caving in to a moral panic”

Clive Bates, Sustainability & Public Health Expert, Counterfactual Consulting Ltd

Clive Bates has a long track record of championing tobacco harm reduction – and he’s not impressed with the Government’s news. “The UK government has decided it will ban disposable vapes and suggests it will ban vape flavours. This will trigger more smoking, more illicit trade and more workarounds.”

Mr. Bates sounds the alarm about the possibility that disposable vape users could return to smoking or buy black-market products. “The key insight to appreciate here is that a ban on a product does not cause the banned product to disappear. Nor does it guarantee the people using it will become abstinent and free of all proscribed sins.”

He isn’t convinced that the ban will work as intended. “About nine times as many adults compared to teens will be affected by the ban. And many of these young people will be very occasional users. Adult use, however, will be dominated by people who smoke or previously smoked – and this prohibition puts them at risk of serious diseases if they revert to smoking or dual use.”

When it comes to a flavour ban, Mr. Bates says flavours are a key driver behind how many smokers have swapped dangerous cigarettes for 95% less harmful vapes. Most vapers will tell you: vaping tastes better than smoking! “If there is a worse idea than banning disposable vapes, it would be the beyond-terrible idea of banning major categories of flavours in vape products and therefore damaging the underlying value proposition that has made much-safer vaping work as an effective competitor to smoking.” He points out that smoking rates have increased in US states with vape flavour bans, and that in San Francisco, teenage smoking rates specifically increased when vape flavours were banned.

Summing Up

This page only features a small selection of experts who’ve spoken out against the disposable vape ban and potential flavour restrictions. If you’d like to keep up to date with the latest statements, we highly recommend the Talking Retail and Planet Of The Vapes websites – their journalists are doing an excellent job. Plus, we’ll post about major updates in our Vaping News section.

Of course, we’re committed to keeping you in the know about any developments related to the UK’s disposable vape ban on our own blog. We’ll make sure to mention the most important updates in our email newsletter, too – you can sign up at the bottom of this page.

Share This Article

Get 10% Off Your Next Order!

When You Subscribe To Our Newsletter.

Sign Up & Save Newsletter Subription Illustration