A ban on the sales of disposable vapes is “unlikely during the current government”’”, an influential Tory MP has said.
Speaking to Vape Business on Wednesday (20), Adam Afriyie, vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group for vaping, said the government is ‘absolutely right’ to take a look at the concerns surrounding disposable vapes, particularly its impact on the environment and appeal among teenagers, but he opined that a ban would be counterproductive.
“If you ban these products, particularly disposable vapes, you may well be discouraging adults from ceasing to smoke. And you may well be causing a greater amount of ill health and deaths among the UK population by taking that route than by simply allowing the industry to solve the recycling and to solve the child’s use of them,” he said.
Media reports said last week that the government is considering a ban on the sale of disposable vapes as an option in a soon-to-be launched consultation on the issue of children accessing and using e-cigarettes.
The Windsor MP said the UK approach to vaping – “treating vapes as a consumer item that can be retailed to through newsagents, convenience stores, supermarkets” – is a correct one, evident by the falling smoking prevalence rates, and a ban should only be considered if vapes cannot be made to be environmentally friendly, and enforcement won’t prevent the teenagers from using it.
“We may need to slightly tighten certain regulations, better define the naming and the flavors that are put into disposable vapes, but overall, our system is working. So I suspect with the information that I have seen so far, if the government follows the evidence, the data and the science and if the government wants to reduce the harm done by smoking overall, a ban is pretty unlikely,” he said.
“We will need to look at it, we will need to debate it, and we need to reflect upon it. But I think a ban is unlikely under the current government.”
Afriyie added that the research evidence so far on the health effects of vaping also does not support such a measure.
“If it is clear, through consultation and looking at research, that the disposable vapes are damaging the health of young people, then I think we should be open to the idea of controlling them further. But at the moment, I have seen no data that suggests that the harm done by disposable vapes is greater than the rate the good that is done by helping adults to quit smoking,” he noted.
He suggested that increasing the level of enforcement will be key to tackle the issue of teen vaping and underage sales, adding that the £3 million investment in an ‘illicit vapes enforcement squad’, announced by the government earlier this year, is a ‘good thing’.
He also hinted that the government may soon launch an awareness campaign on vaping.
“In the months ahead, we’ll see announcements about greater investment in education so that – and also directly through schools and local authorities – the young people are very clear on the risks and very clear on the downside of taking up vaping,” he informed.
Afriyie also asked the vape manufacturers to invest more in the recycling of the disposable vapes to address the environmental concerns.
“I’ve been around this industry for quite some time, and I remember, within the last 18 months, saying to the industry, that it really, really must deal with recycling, and the environmental impact, particularly of disposable vapes, otherwise, the government would be compelled to get involved. And it seems that we’ve gotten to that position,” he said.
However, he said the innovation in the sector is ‘amazing’, highlighting some of the products showcased at this year’s Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum at Seoul, South Korea. The MP addressed the conference on Wednesday as part of a panel on regulation.
“There are already products that have been emerged, which are completely biodegradable, and where the batteries can be recycled in the UK companies. It seems to me that innovation is the answer to the problem with disposable vapes,” he said.
He suggested that vape take back schemes with proper incentive could be a major way forward in tackling the issue of waste.
“If there is some proper incentive to floor up and return disposable vapes, I suspect that every household that uses disposable vapes will throw them in a bowl and take them back for a refund or for free in the future. So the industry can rise to this challenge. And I think the government needs to allow time and the industry needs to accelerate its behavior, accelerate the innovation so that the environmental issues are non issue,” he said.
He also urged manufacturers to support retailers in implementing these schemes.
“Convenience stores can help provided they’ve got the financial backing from the manufacturers. Because by simply saying ‘you return your vape, you get a pound, or a cash reward, or a free vape’, that will make all the difference very quickly, because that’s working with the grain of human nature,” he noted.
He urged the government to take a lead at the World Health Organisation and tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to stress that ‘harm reduction must be the goal’.
“I do have concerns about the WHO, because it seems to me that they’re a very opaque organisation, it’s very hard to work out why decisions are reached, the process that they’re following,” he said.
“So I think that given our contribution to the WHO, and to COP10, the UK really need to try to take the lead to point out that harm reduction must be the principle and not secret pronouncements by people, where we don’t really know what their interests are or what their personal motivations might be.”