MPs call to ban disposable vapes to prevent a new public health catastrophe

Tory MPs have called on the Government to ban disposable vapes in a bid to prevent a “new public health catastrophe” among children.

Chris Skidmore, Selaine Saxby and Dr Caroline Johnson are among MPs who have warned the environmental impact of the throwaway smoking devices are “huge and growing”.

In a letter to health minister Neil O’Brien, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Environment said: “Targeted marketing and unregulated access to brightly coloured, flavoured disposables have heightened the appeal to young, non-smokers, creating a generation of young people hooked on nicotine and risking a new public health catastrophe.”

There has been a 50 percent rise in the last year in the proportion of children trying vaping, figures released this week revealed.

The data for Great Britain shows a rise in experimental vaping among 11 to 17-year-olds, from 7.7 percent last year to 11.6 percent this year.

Children were asked if they had ever tried vaping once or twice, with the proportion roughly doubling in nine years, from 5.6 percent in 2014 to 11.6 percent this year.

Baroness Kate Parminter, chair of the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, said: “Single use vapes might be called disposable, but most aren’t.

“Two single-use vapes are thrown away every second, and the majority aren’t recycled but binned – yet they contain plastic, copper, rubber and a lithium battery – a critical material in high demand.

“The Government has said it will ‘in due course’ set out its plans for reforming the electric waste regulations, which govern their disposal.  That’s too little, too late.  Australia is looking to ban all single use vapes.  

“The Government should be looking at banning these new icons of a throwaway society or our environment commitments will go up in a puff of smoke.”

Smokers throw away 2.7 million disposable vapes every week, double the figure reported as being binned in July 2022. Vapes contain lithium and copper, which are crucial for the green transition and go to waste when the devices are thrown away.

The MPs said: “They are extremely dangerous when littered, as charities report is increasingly happening. They contain not only plastic, but also hazardous nicotine as well as batteries that pose fire risks if handled incorrectly.”

“Trial recycling schemes have indicated take back of less than one per cent and it is unrealistic to expect youths who illicitly smoke these devices to go to correctly dispose of them.

“What’s more, their complex material composition will always mean they are logistically difficult, labour intensive and expensive to recycle.”

It is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s but social media carries posts from teenagers showing vapes and discussing flavours such as pink lemonade, strawberry, banana and mango. Experts have warned previously how the new generation of disposable vapes known as “puff bars” – which contain nicotine – have flooded the market.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “We need to stem the tide of child vape experimentation and the Government’s investment in a crackdown on illegal underage sales of vapes is a vital first step.

“But enforcement on its own won’t do the trick without tougher regulation to address the child-friendly promotion of these cheap and attractive products. The evidence is clear, government needs to take strong action to prevent the marketing of vapes to children.”

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