Banning disposable vapes across Europe: what purpose does it really serve?

The fate of disposable vapes appears to be sealed across much of Europe, with at least four countries already determined to ban non-rechargeable e-cigarettes under the auspices of protecting young people and the environment.

Among them, France and Belgium will have to wait for a response from the European Commission, after they notified their bills containing the bans – with Belgium already having failed to obtain positive feedback in its first attempt three years ago.

The government of another EU member state, Poland, is considering whether to follow in its predecessors’ footsteps either by drafting a bill that will have to pass parliamentary scrutiny and be notified to the Commission or simply through the issuing of a public health regulation banning disposables.

In the UK, which does not have to deal with notifying its bills to the EU, the government announced a ban on the sale of disposable vapes earlier this year as part of a wider plan against tobacco smoking and youth vaping. Authorities said it would also help to reduce “hard-to-recycle waste”.

While the governments of EU member states in the process of banning disposables are putting a great amount of effort into challenging EU procedural barriers in order to drive these devices out of the market, UK authorities are also dealing with their share of obstacles as they face criticism from the industry as well as from harm-reduction advocates.


Are they really doing it for the kids?


In every country where an upcoming disposables ban has been announced, the ban’s supposed purpose of countering youth vaping has been challenged by critics.

In France, while announcing the measure before the bill was approved by the parliament, former prime minister Élisabeth Borne said e-cigarettes were not just bad because of their nicotine content but especially because they gave young users “bad habits” by getting them accustomed to the gesture of vaping. The lack of scientific data in support of this statement was harshly criticised by vaping associations.

More recently, an organisation in France called the Collective of Vaping Professionals (CPV) accused the government of not doing enough to enforce current laws. The CPV says that has resulted in disposable vapes (known as “puffs” in French) with a high nicotine content being sold in grocery stores, outside schools, and even by illegal dealers.

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    Vaping advocates seem to remain convinced that banning disposable e-cigs will be counterproductive from a harm-reduction perspective, and that bans could be avoided if current laws were properly enforced that regulate the sale and promotion of disposables which are certainly marketed in a way that’s appealing to under-age consumers.

    Environmental arguments backing up the measure are generally met with wider approval. Even within the French vaping sector, for instance, the CPV has declared its “support for the law bill prohibiting puffs for ecologic reasons”.


    Lack of solid plans to back up proposals


    However, even when disposables bans are promoted as a way to curb non-recyclable waste, the necessary steps that would prove authorities’ commitment to environment protection or the effectiveness of such a radical measure do not seem to be included.

    A recent survey conducted by the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) showed that no major city councils across the country have plans to invest in solutions for waste collection from used vapes.

    According to the UKVIA’s director general, John Dunne, this is in contrast with authorities’ support for a disposable e-cigarette ban on environmental grounds.

    Dunne said: “Even when single-use vapes are no longer available in retail outlets, there will still be millions of rechargeable and refillable vapes sold every year, not to mention a rise in black-market products that will arise from the ban on disposables.”

    If the disappearance of disposables from the legal market will not properly prevent under-age vaping nor protect the environment, then what purpose will the upcoming bans serve?

    – Tiziana Cauli ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Artem Kniaz

    Tiziana Cauli

    Senior reporter/health & science editor
    Tiziana is an Italian journalist from Sardinia. She has worked for both international and local media in Italy, South Africa, France, Spain, the UK, Lebanon and Belgium. She also worked as a communications manager for several international NGOs in the humanitarian sector. Tiziana holds a degree in Political Science and a PhD in African Studies from the University of Cagliari and she’s a graduate of the Carlo De Martino school of journalism in Milan.