vaping ecigarette

Local authorities have called for single use vapes, such as Elf bars and Lost Mary, to be banned on environmental and health grounds.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling for the government to ban the sale and manufacture of single use vapes by 2024.

The LGA said it is crucial that that ban comes into effect rapidly, as with the EU proposing a ban in 2026 and France rolling out a ban in December 2023, there is a risk that as markets close disposable vapes will flood into the UK.

According to the LGA disposable vapes are a hazard for waste and litter collection and cause fires in bin lorries.

Single use vapes are designed as one unit so batteries cannot be separated from the plastic, making them almost impossible to recycle without going through special treatment.

The lithium batteries inside the plastic can sharply increase in temperature if crushed and can become flammable.

This comes at a cost to council taxpayers through fire damage to equipment and the specialist treatment needed to deal with hazardous waste.

With 1.3 million disposable vapes discarded every week, they have also become a regular item of litter.

Councils are also concerned about the impact vaping is having on children and young people. They are especially concerned by the marketing of vapes with designs and flavours that could appeal to children, in particular those with fruity and bubble gum flavours, and colourful child-friendly packaging. They say strict new measures to regulate the display and marketing of regular vaping products in the same way as tobacco are needed.

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said: “Councils are not anti-vapes, which are shown to be less harmful than smoking and have a place as a tool to use in smoking cessation.

“However, disposable vapes are fundamentally flawed in their design and inherently unsustainable products, meaning an outright ban will prove more effective than attempts to recycle more vapes.

“Single use vapes blight our streets as litter, are a hazard in our bin lorries, are expensive and difficult to deal with in our recycling centres. Their colours, flavours and advertising are appealing to children and the penalties for retailers selling them don’t go far enough.

“Councils urge the government to take this action to protect our planet, keep children safe and save taxpayers money.”

John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association responded: “While it is important to protect the environment, it is crucial to realise that smoking kills more than 200 UK smokers every day affecting families and loved ones across the country. Most smokers have used, and continue to use, single use vapes to help them quit combustible cigarettes.

“The low price, accessibility and ease of use of these products have played a key role in helping bring the UK smoking rate to an all-time low. A recent report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) concluded that converting smokers to vapers saved the NHS more than £320m in a single year.

“Experience across the world shows that where blanket bans have been introduced on regulated single use vapes, there is a massive influx of illegal, untested and potentially deadly black-market products which take their place and this is in nobody’s interest.

“It also makes absolutely no sense to call for a ban on disposable vapes while ignoring the much bigger problem of smoking and its related litter which accounts for 68% of all litter in the UK and discarded cigarette butts alone cost local authorities £40m a year to clean up.

“The negative consequences of these proposals have not been thought through and this also looks like a move by the LGA to support cash-strapped councils who don’t want to invest in the local authority’s waste management capability required to support smokers transitioning to considerably less harmful vapes.

“Smokers pay their taxes for local services, one being recycling, and local government needs to think whether recycling costs are a more important consideration than helping to potentially save the lives of local people through vaping, including disposables, which has huge potential to save local hospitals across the country millions of pounds every year.

“The vape industry is working hard to minimise environmental impact but this is mainly a consumer education issue about how to dispose of used vapes, which overall are evidenced to be highly recyclable. We need vastly more recycling points in city and town centres to make it as easy as possible for people to act responsibly.”