Health ministers are said to be preparing to act after growing concerns that companies are marketing the products in an enticing and colourful way to appeal to those aged under 18.
In reports this week, The Telegraph claims to have seen evidence of plans to officially ban disposable vapes sold in shops, which it says set to be made public next week in a crackdown to protect UK children’s health and halt nicotine addiction.
Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan has also publicly refused to dismiss the rumours.
In an interview with Sky News, she confirmed the Government had been “looking into” the ban.
She said: “This is a very worrying trend that we’re seeing, of young children taking up vaping that had never smoked before, and it is extremely dangerous to their health and their wellbeing is something that we do need to act on.”
Asked specifically whether disposable vapes will be banned next week, she simply said: “We’ll be making further announcements on this.”
Some have welcomed a ban - and the Welsh government has also expressed its support, with such health decisions made at a devolved level in the UK.
But a ban on single use products might “flood” the market with illegal products, one charity has warned.
Scott Butler, executive director at Material Focus, an environmental charity, told the Guardian: “If the legitimate industry is banned, then there will be no mechanism to deal with all the operational challenges and costs of illegally sold vapes which have the same challenges.
“[It could lead to a] hard to control illegal sales and an established illegal vape market.”
There have also been issues with regulating the promotion of vapes on social media - with TikTok urged to stop adverts from appearing and the Advertising Standards Agency taking action. It was reported this week that four adverts, promoting The Disposable Vape Store, Innofly HK, Vapes Bars and Zovoo, have been banned from TikTok.
But how could the ban work and what could it mean? Here are the details as we know them so far.
Why does the Government want to ban disposable vapes?
The move to ban colourful disposable vapes comes after criticism from health experts and paediatricians.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has previously called for a ban on disposable vapes as it warned that “youth vaping is fast becoming an epidemic among children”.
It called for urgent action to protect youngsters, saying experts agree that longer-term data is needed on the effects of vaping.
Earlier this month, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a large increase in vaping among teenagers and young adults in Britain.
NHS figures also show a rise in the number of children admitted to hospital due to vaping.
Forty children and young people were admitted to hospital in England last year due to “vaping-related disorders”, which included lung damage or worsening asthma symptoms, up from 11 two years earlier, the NHS said.
And a recent study found that young people who vape are twice as likely to report chronic stress compared with peers who abstain.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, has said previously: “If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape; marketing vapes to children is utterly unacceptable.”
There have also been calls for disposable vapes to be banned to protect the environment.
Recycling campaign group Material Focus said five million disposable vapes are thrown away every week.
More than seven million single-use vapes are bought every week in the UK — double the amount bought in 2022, it said, but only 17 per cent of people correctly recycle their vapes in shops or recycling centres.
The group warned that vapes are toxic and can be damaging to the environment and wildlife if littered.
The move to ban is set to be announced under a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care, who have looked at all available evidence.
Who uses disposable vapes?
The proportion of young people in London who smoke has halved in more than a decade, new figures have revealed.
Analysis carried out by the Standard shows that just 10.1 per cent of people aged between 18 and 24 regularly smoked cigarettes in 2022 — a drop of 10.7 per cent on the figure reported in 2011, but it is believed vaping numbers are now very high.
Londoners in the age group are the least likely to smoke of any region in England, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Men were slightly more likely (10.7 per cent) to smoke than women (9.4 per cent).
Across all age groups, just 11.7 per cent of Londoners said they smoked cigarettes in 2022 — a decline of 7.5 per cent in 12 years. This was lower than the national average of 12.9 per cent.
DrJames Tucker, data analyst for social care and health at the ONS, said the figure is “consistent with the continuing trend towards a decline in smoking prevalence over recent years”.
The decline in smoking comes amid a significant rise in the number of young people choosing to vape instead.
A total of 15.5 per cent of Britons aged between 16-24 identified as daily or occasional e-cigarette users in 2022, compared with 11.1 per cent the year before. This increase was particularly significant among women in the age group, with a fourfold jump in vaping rates between 2021 and 2022. The ONS did not release figures on e-cigarette use in London specifically.
The ONS figures also reveal a significant variation in smoking rates across different London boroughs, with more deprived areas seeing a higher rate of smoking than more affluent boroughs.
What kind of vapes do people use?
Vapes have become popular because they ate easy to buy, and for the fact they are billed as “healthier” than traditional cigarettes, as well as due to how they are marketed and packaged.
They are sold in supermarkets and in corner shops around the UK, and packaging is brightly coloured.
They also come in flavours that entice children, such as bubblegum, strawberry lemonade, and blueberry.
Where can you vape legally right now?
Vaping laws are a bit of a grey area and differ drastically from those regulating smoking.
At present, you must be 18 or older to buy and use a vape in the UK.
Vape cartridges — the liquid that goes in them — must not hold more than two millilitres of liquid or contain more than 20 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre.
While selling vapes to under 18s is illegal, nicotine-free products can be sold.
Vaping is allowed in the UK at present and there are no nationwide legal restrictions or laws enforced on vaping in public areas. The use of vaping devices indoors is generally permitted in the UK, unless a specific establishment or public area has imposed a ban. However, individual businesses and organisations have the discretion to implement their own policies regarding vaping on their premises.
Where in the world are vapes banned?
The UK isn’t the only country to have proposed a ban on disposable vapes. A number of countries around the world have already introduced bans on e-cigarettes. Here are all the countries that have imposed a ban on disposable vapes so far:
At the time of writing, the UK and France have proposed the implementation of a ban on disposable vapes.
Japan (vaping non-nicotine e-liquid is legal)
The states of Penang, Kedah, Johor, Kelantan in Malaysia
Ghana (unless you have a prescription)
Australia (unless you have a prescription)
Antigua and Barbuda