Disposable E-Cigarettes - Why The Big Fuss?
Disposables are hitting headlines all over the media now and they are now also getting the attention of parliament, with talks to ban them altogether. Disposable vapes are electronic cigarettes that are designed to be used once and then thrown away. They are pre-filled with e-liquid and come with a built-in battery, so there is no need to recharge or refill them. Disposable vapes are a convenient and easy-to-use option for those who are new to vaping or for those who want a hassle-free experience. However, they are not as environmentally friendly as refillable e-cigarettes, as they generate more waste. We look at the biggest problems with disposable e-cigarettes and how they can be potentially addressed.
A recent article published by the Guardian claimed as many as 15% of 11–15-year-olds are now using vapes. Whilst estimates vary across different sources, a rise in youth and underage vaping is certainly a problem, especially if it begins to rise. The UK government are now acting with measures in place to clamp down on underage vaping. It’s illegal for people under the age of 18 to be served tobacco related products. It’s also illegal for an adult to purchase these products for people under the age of 18. This is often referred to as a “proxy” sale.
The easiest way to prevent this problem is by ensuring all retailers have strict procedures in place to verify the age of people purchasing tobacco and vape related products. If retailers have these procedures in the place, they’ll find the number of people under the age 18 trying to purchase from them will fall as they won’t have a reputation for serving underage individuals. It’s a simple solution.
Ministers and health officials are now arguing that the packaging of disposables appeals to kids. Whilst there are strong arguments for and against these claims, if retailers are sufficiently verifying the age of people who look under 25, the whole packaging issue won’t be such a problem because people under the age 18 will know they can’t purchase those products.
Whilst most user’s disposable of their disposables approximately, you still find them littered on the roads and in public spaces. This causes harm to the environment because the devices are plastic, contain lithium batteries and are not biodegradable. It also causes further hazards because members of the public could easily fall over them.
The environmental concerns of disposables are real, and they do need addressing. One solution could be to offer more recycling containers on the streets and in other public places, like parks. Another solution could be issuing heavy on the spot fines for anyone who is found to be littering the streets with their disposables. Finally, if the UK government does really take its environmental responsibility seriously, they could develop an overall strategy by looking at nations such as Singapore, where the streets, public spaces and stations are all pretty much spotless.
Questionable Practices By Big Brands
Companies like Elf Bar & Elux haven’t exactly helped with the public perception of disposables. We all heard about when Elf Bar were caught supplying single use devices that were overfilled and illegal under the TPD laws. It’s important to remember, the genuine Elf Bars, which were overfilled, didn’t really pose any threat to people using them. They just contained more than 2ml of e-liquid, which is why people would get longer out of them compared to compliant devices. Under UK laws, an e-cigarette container, tank, or pod cannot contain more than 2ml of nicotine-based e-liquid.
Elux have recently hit the headlines when some of their 0mg disposables with a capacity over 2ml contained 20mg of nicotine within them. Not only is this practice illegal, but it’s also very deceptive for customers and morally wrong.
The practices above create a seriously negative image of the industry as a whole and should be addressed with harsh penalties. For the vape industry to grow organically, the public perception of it needs to be positive.
Illicit, Replica & Fake Products
The rise of disposables was fast, coming almost out of nowhere. Whilst they were available for a while and trace their roots back to the start of vaping, when disposables became popular, there was a sharp rise in the number of illicit, replica and fake disposables. These disposables can be harmful to health and do not meet the legal requirements to keep vaping as safe as possible.
Retailers can avoid these types of products by purchasing from reliable channels. Consumers can avoid purchasing these illicit products by using trustworthy vape shops and verifying their products.
Trading Standards need to adequately step in here and punish rogue traders who are openly selling these products. To do this, they need proper understanding of e-cigarette products and how to distinguish between replica and genuine products. This would not only help customers but also level the playing field up between genuine and rogue traders.
Should Disposables Be Banned?
The answer is probably no. Disposables and single use vape devices can probably play an effective role in helping people stop smoking and help the government achieve their targets for a smoke free society. To make disposables more sustainable, tighter regulatory controls are required and the government also need to punish companies and traders who choose to sell single use devices in an illegal or unethical way. They also need to make recycling points readily available so single use e-cigarettes can be disposed of in an eco-friendly way.