FOI Shows Disposables Ban Folly

Posted 5th February 2024 by Dave Cross
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Leading online retailer Vape Club made 389 Freedom of Information requests to council Trading Standards departments around the UK last year asking about the seizure of illegal vapes. Similarly, the BBC recently revealed the result of its Freedom of Information request to discover how many illegal vapes were confiscated at UK borders. The results from both evidence how inane a comprehensive ban on disposable single-use products will be.

While it has been evidenced by Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK that there has been a growth in teen use of disposable vapes, the boom in this sector of the vape market was fuelled largely by smokers adopting a product that was easy to use, a convenient size and had a low price point per unit.

All disposable products being sold legitimately in the UK had to be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and provide testing to ensure levels of safety and conformity with UK legislation.

Despite this, demand existed for products that weren’t restricted by an arbitrary 2ml tank restriction or an unevidenced cap on nicotine level to 20mg/ml. Consequently, a black market in illicit products grew.

The BBC reports: “More than 4.5m vapes weighing nearly ten tonnes were seized over the last 12 months, four times more than 2022.

Dan Marchant, the man behind online retailer Vape Club, told the national broadcaster: “They're out there in broad daylight, in plain view. It is scary how prevalent they are. People are getting away with it. They are acting with complete impunity.”


Dan’s observation mirrors that of all of us; we’ve seen the adverts, we’ve seen the corner shop displays, we’ve seen the discarded spent products on roadsides, town centres and in the countryside.

BBC News says it was, “easily able to buy two vapes containing 4.5ml of liquid from two UK-based online retailers.”

These products are illegal and yet they have proliferated, openly on sale everywhere. Does anyone truly believe a ban is going to stop this? Currently, Trading Standards departments don’t have enough officers or resources to crack down on the current level of illicit trading – what hope do they have when the entire market for disposables will be driven underground? While the Government has announced additional funding, many suspect it won’t be sufficient and won’t be targeted at the right areas.

Vape Club was given an award at the UK Vaping Industry Association Industry Recognition Awards for its efforts to highlight the scale of the problem across the country, raising awareness of the dangers that black market products pose in the hope that it would encourage greater action from the government and enforcement agencies.

Millions of illegal vapes have been seized in the UK over the last three years — two and a half million illicit e-cigarettes were collected since the beginning of 2020. Although this is just the tip of the iceberg as enforcement action is unfortunately relatively rare still,” said Dan Marchant.

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If Trading Standards officers were unable to keep a lid on illicit disposable vapes in 2023, how is the situation going to improve now?

If Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency licensed single-use ecig products are no longer available, how is safety going to be regulated?

And if pod devices still exist, of similar size and ease of use as disposables, is it not possible that teens will migrate to use those instead – and what does that mean for a future ban on pods too?

Banning disposable single-use vape products has been done for one reason: because the government thinks it will win votes at the forthcoming general election. It isn’t grounded in evidence, it hasn’t considered the impact in countries which have adopted a ban where smoking has risen, and it clearly indicates that the government cares little for the health of current smokers or disposable vape users in marginalised communities.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, salad destroyer and live culture convert.
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