Sector Impact: The UK Government plans to ban disposable vapes to tackle the rise of youth vaping | Fieldfisher
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Sector Impact: The UK Government plans to ban disposable vapes to tackle the rise of youth vaping


United Kingdom

This week, the UK Government announced its plans to ban disposable vape products as concerns about youth vaping increase. Fieldfisher's Regulatory Team has analysed the announcement to assess the impact on the UK vaping industry.

What changes are being implemented?

Disposable vapes will be prohibited in the UK as part of the government's commitment to combat the rise in vaping amongst young people and protect children's health. The target ban stems from evidence that the smaller, colourful packaging and fruity flavours of disposable vape products makes them more appealing to children. Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has stated that they "have driven the rise in youth vaping".

The ban will also have a positive impact on the environment. Five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week, which, over the course of a year, is the equivalent to the lithium batteries of 5,000 electric vehicles. The ban on disposable vapes comes as part of the government's response to its 8-week public consultation on smoking and vaping, 'Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping', which closed on 6 December 2023. Additionally, new powers governing the sale and marketing of vape products will be implemented to include the following measures:

  1. Restrictions on vape flavours.
  2. Restrictions on the packaging, including the introduction of plain packaging.
  3. Restrictions on how vapes are displayed in stores like prohibiting them from being displayed near confectionary items.

These restrictions are to apply to non-nicotine vapes and other consumer nicotine products such as nicotine pouches. The Government plans to implement secondary legislation to take these measures forward, which will be subject to a further consultation.

The new law will also make it illegal to sell tobacco products (including herbal smoking products and cigarette papers) to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 as part of the Prime Minister's pledge to create a smoke-free generation. A requirement for retail premises to display warning notices to read "it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009" will also come into force when the legislation takes effect.

The government also intends to introduce additional financial penalties for shops in England and Wales that sell vapes illegally to children. A £100 fixed penalty notice for the underage sale, proxy purchase and free distribution of tobacco products and vapes (nicotine and non-nicotine) will be brought in which will empower Trading Standards officers to act ‘on the spot’ to tackle underage tobacco and vape sales. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose. 

What is the timeframe for implementation?

The ban on disposal vapes, along with the additional restrictions on packaging, vape flavours and in-shop displays are likely to come into force at the start of 2025 via a mixture of a bill and secondary legislation. The government is planning to implement the ban as soon as possible by bringing the legislation under the existing Environmental Protection Act.

The Tobacco and Vapes bill will include governmental powers to take measures on the additional restrictions on packaging and vape flavours and how vapes are displayed in shops, along with the additional financial penalties for shops and subsequent 'on the spot' enforcement powers awarded to Trading Standards Officers. The Tobacco and Vapes Bill will also include the new legislation that will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone turning fifteen this year or younger.

How will the sector be impacted?

Disposable vapes now make up a sizeable portion of the UK vape sector, so there is no doubt that these new restrictions will cause friction. Those in the industry that market disposable vape products would argue that there are already extensive powers available to Trading Standards officers to combat the issues which this new disposables ban is intended to address In contrast, there will be vape manufacturers who welcome the government ban on disposables and further restrictions on flavours, arguing that the efficacy of vape products as a tool to convert adult smokers is put at risk by the high rate of youth usage.   

The illicit vape sector in the UK is substantial, and there are concerns that these new restrictions will hand more opportunity to the criminal enterprises that sell illegal vapes, whilst penalising legitimate businesses.

However, the vaping industry is well versed in dealing with sweeping regulatory changes. The industry can adapt and pivot very quickly to new products which fall outside of the restrictions. It is unlikely that manufacturers of disposable vape products will find themselves entirely outside the market – much more likely that they will adapt their products to fit the regulatory requirements.

In the immediate term, vaping companies will have significant amounts of stock which they now need to shift quickly before the ban comes into effect. They will also be looking to source new suppliers and products. Of course, the regulatory headwinds have been apparent for some time, so no doubt most vape companies will have commenced their preparations for these changes.

Thank you to Trainee Solicitor Hollie Ferris for her contribution to this article.

Areas of Expertise

Public and Regulatory