There used to be a time when the streets were littered with cigarette butts. But in recent years we’ve seen them disappearing (hooray!) only to be replaced by fluorescent, plastic, single-use vapes (boo!). The sights of a colourful Elf Bar or Lost Mary in the smoking area have become the latest signifiers of cool on a night out, but could disappear as early as next week!
The UK government looks ready to ban single-use vapes on the grounds of health and environmental concerns. It’s believed these colourful nicotine products are overwhelmingly advertised to under-18s, while the negative environmental impact of disposable vapes cannot be understated either.
Calls to ban these toxic products have long been made by councils, paediatricians, and environmental activists. Back in July, MPs in the UK urged restrictions on disposable vapes but stopped short of a ban because of the use of vaping for those trying to quit smoking. But health ministers are now poised to bring a ban into effect, with a consultation planned by the Department of Health and Social Care for next week.
Why are single-use vapes bad?
From a child safety perspective, the colourful, child-friendly packaging and sweet-like names (such as Blue Razz Cherry and Cherry Ice) bring up concerns of young children hooked on nicotine. Many single-use vapes are sold at 2% strength – meaning for every 1ml of e-liquid it contains 20mg of nicotine – the highest concentration allowed in the UK.
But the environmental side is equally worrying. Research by the not-for-profit organisation Material Focus showed that 5 million single-use vapes are thrown away weekly in the UK – about eight vapes a second and enough lithium to create 5,000 electric car batteries.
We’d be far from the first country to do so either. Australia has banned all vaping, New Zealand has banned single-use vapes and, earlier this month, France announced plans to ban disposable e-cigarettes too. We’ll have to wait and see whether this is the end of nights standing out in the cold with a Lost Mary and Elf Bar.