Paediatricians celebrate win as Government plan to ban disposable vapes

This landmark announcement comes after Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) campaigned for Government to tackle youth vaping; now it must go ahead.
Many vapes scattered on a pink background

The Westminster Government has announced that disposable e-cigarettes will be banned in the UK. Legislation is set to be introduced to restrict flavours which are specifically marketed at children and ensure that manufacturers produce plainer, less visually appealing packaging. The Government will also change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of sight from children and away from products that appeal to them like sweets. Vaping alternatives – such as nicotine pouches - will also be outlawed for children who are increasingly turning to this highly addictive substitute. 

RCPCH first called on the Westminster Government to ban disposable e-cigarettes in June 2023 due to their disproportionate use among children and young people and their detrimental impact on the environment. The most frequently used device last year for young people in the UK was a disposable vape at 69%, a significant increase from 7.7% in 2021.[1] Research also shows that 5 million disposable vapes are discarded each week in the UK, adding to unnecessary waste. It is estimated that all the disposable vapes thrown away in a year contain enough lithium to provide batteries for 5,000 electric cars.

RCPCH’s position on youth vaping includes key recommendations to curb the use of e-cigarettes in children and young people. Alongside a ban on disposable e-cigarettes, RCPCH recommended restricting e-cigarette flavours, plain packaging for devices and liquids and limited marketing for e-cigarettes. Each of these recommendations has now been heard and actioned by UK Government. 

RCPCH VP for Policy, Dr Mike McKean, said: 

We’re delighted that the Westminster Government has heard our calls and is rightly prioritising the health and well-being of our children and the planet. Bold action was always needed to curb youth vaping and banning disposables is a meaningful step in the right direction. I’m also extremely pleased to see further much needed restrictions on flavours, packaging, and marketing of vapes, which RCPCH has repeatedly called for.

As a respiratory consultant it is not lost on me that smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and disease in the UK. We know this because we have 60+ years of research and data on cigarette use on a population level. But the research and data around widespread e-cigarette use is still very much in its infancy. The long-term impacts, especially for children and young people, remain unknown. 

Government must swiftly lay the legislation to ensure it can be fully considered in this Parliament. We look forward to seeing more details about these landmark plans, especially in terms of implementation, enforcement, and monitoring. 

RCPCH President, Dr Camilla Kingdon, said:

We’re thrilled to see the Government take the first necessary steps to create a smoke free generation. Any measures taken to reduce smoking uptake in children and young people is a worthwhile and welcome development. By stopping children and young people from ever starting to smoke we decreases their chances of developing preventable diseases later in life. Smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and disease in the UK, so without a doubt these plans can save lives. 

I’m also deeply proud of RCPCH’s work in campaigning for action on youth vaping. As paediatricians, reducing harm to children and young people lies at the core of our work. We will continue to advocate for children and young people and call for child health focused policies at every opportunity. 

RCPCH Officer for Scotland, Dr Mairi Stark, said:

RCPCH Scotland has repeatedly warned that disposable vapes are bad news for children and our planet. As such, we are delighted that the Scottish government is taking forward the recommendations from the ‘Creating a Smokefree Generation and Tackling Youth Vaping’ consultation and will be implementing a ban on disposable vapes. We are also extremely supportive of upcoming legislation preventing anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 from being sold tobacco, which continues to be the biggest preventable killer of people in Scotland.

We look forward to seeing more details about these landmark plans, especially in terms of implementation, enforcement, and monitoring.

RCPCH Officer for Wales, Dr Nick Wilkinson, said:

We’re delighted to hear that the Welsh Government will be banning disposable vapes and backing plans to raise the smoking age in Wales.

Disposable e-cigarettes are disproportionately used by children and young people and also create extreme levels of hard-to-recycle waste, with nearly 5 million thrown away every week. A ban is absolutely the right path forward.

We now ask the Welsh Government to get to work and implement these plans as soon as possible in order to protect our children and our planet.

RCPCH Officer for Ireland, Dr Ray Nethercott, said:

We’re pleased that a ban on disposable e-cigarettes and further restrictions on refillable e-cigarettes will be implemented in Northern Ireland. Youth vaping is a real problem in the UK and Northern Ireland is no exception.

A Northern Ireland Assembly implementing these plans is the best way forward for children and young people. They deserve the same protections as their counterparts; they cannot wait. 

Notes to Editors:

  1. RCPCH’s policy briefing on youth vaping
  2. RCPCH’s response to Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping in the UK consultation

Update, 29 January 2024 - Quotes added from Dr Stark, Dr Wilkinson and Dr Nethercott