James Lowman 2023

James Lowman: One in four vapers said they would carry on using disposables regardless of a ban

The government’s decision to push ahead with a ban on disposable vapes has come as a shock to many in the sector, especially as the announcement came weeks after new rules came into place that required retailers to provide a recycling facility for vapes in their stores. This apparent contradiction is one of many facing the government on this issue, as a number of different departments have been running their own initiatives and campaigns to support vaping rather than discourage it. 

The Prime Minister has taken a personal interest in this issue, choosing to spend time in his Party Conference speech last year to specifically target disposable vapes as an area that he saw as problematic. It’s this personal interest that has driven this decision – the red button option of introducing a ban is an attempt to get results fast instead of longer term solutions that address the widely accepted issues that have arisen from the near exponential growth of the disposable vaping category.

We’ve asked consumers who currently use disposables what they would do after a ban came into force, and the results are more varied than we expected. While the most popular answer was for those customers to switch across to refillables, one in four said they would carry on using disposable vapes regardless. This begs the question – where will they be getting them from?

The illicit market is already a major issue in the UK, usually because imported disposables can have a bigger tank size than ones allowed to be sold in the UK, but it’s clear that a ban will provide a major boost for rogue sellers who will no doubt carry on regardless in the absence of any meaningful budget for local enforcement.

We were also somewhat surprised by the almost one in 10 respondents who said they would switch back to smoking, which will be a tough pill to swallow for a government that less than a year ago was using vapes as a way to get people to quit.

James Lowman is chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).