Whilst I understand that e-cigarettes are not risk-free, I support their use as a means to stop adults smoking, particularly in light of our goal to create the first smoke free generation. Some of the highest success rates of those trying to stop smoking are among adults using an e-cigarette, with evidence suggesting that an additional 70,000 people stop every year as a result of using these devices. An estimated 2.4 million vapers are former smokers, and Vaping Awareness Month - VApril - highlights the potential health benefits of making the switch.
However, I find it deeply worrying that the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past three years, with 20.5 per cent of children having tried vaping in 2023. In turn, I am concerned about the environmental impact of disposable vapes, particularly in our beautiful rural constituency.
In addressing these concerns, I agree with the Chief Medical Officer that young people and those who have never smoked should not vape. I also welcome the Government’s launching of a public consultation on the Prime Minister’s proposals to create the first smokefree generation and crack down on cheap and accessible disposable vapes. The consultation includes proposals to restrict child-friendly flavours and bright coloured packaging. In effect, this should tackle youth vaping and the problematic waste stream. The consultation is open to anyone who wishes to make their views known. It is open until 6 December 2023 and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/creating-a-smokefree-genera…
Further regarding vape waste, I am aware that retailers that sell over £100,000 of electrical equipment per year are obliged to provide in-store takeback of electrical items, including vapes, under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations. Smaller businesses can choose to contribute funds to the distributor takeback scheme instead to ensure vapes are recycled correctly. Under these regulations, producers of electrical and electronic equipment, including vapes, are required to take financial responsibility for the collection, and proper treatment the products that they place on the market when those products become waste at household waste recycling centres or are returned to retailers. Consumers that wish to dispose of their old vapes can take them to their local authority household waste recycling centre. I am informed that all vapes that are deposited at household waste and recycling centres will be collected and treated.
The government has introduced a new “illicit vapes enforcement squad” – led by Trading Standards – has been established to enforce the rules on vaping and tackle illicit vapes and underage sales. The enforcement squad will have the power to remove illegal products from shops and at our borders. This will see an end to the proliferation of illicit vaping products in our communities which are often imported from countries such as China and breach UK regulations on product size and nicotine strength.
I am aware that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has commissioned research which will better understand the market for, and environmental impacts of, disposable vapes and associated cost inputs. I will continue to follow this issue closely.