Germany could end up lobbying the EU to ban disposable e-cigarettes if it follows through on an initiative from the state of Bavaria to be discussed in the national parliament later this week.
Earlier this year, the Bavarian government, led by minister-president Markus Söder of the opposition Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU), submitted an initiative to the Bundesrat – the legislative body that represents the 16 German states, or Länder, at federal level – calling on the national government to press for an EU-wide ban on disposables.
Article 5 of the EU’s single-use plastics directive bans the sale of single-use products such as cotton buds and drinking straws, but single-use e-cigarettes are not listed.
According to the Bavarian initiative, the primary reasons for a ban are an increase of 40% in e-cigarette sales in 2022 compared to the previous year and the improper disposal of non-rechargeable batteries.
Although the move comes from an opposition party, it attracted the attention of various other German states and political parties, including the government coalition of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and The Greens.
Manfred Lucha, health minister of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, a member of the Green Party and chairman of the Conference of Health Ministers, told reporters: “As minister of health, I expressly support this. The federal and state governments should now urgently address this issue.”
How the Bundesrat can wield its influence
The Schleswig-Holstein SPD group and the health minister of Saxony-Anhalt, Petra Grimm-Benne, have also expressed support. Others, such as the Environment Ministry of Thuringia have voiced support for tackling the problem of recycling e-cigarette batteries but not gone as far as calling for a ban.
One option put forward by the Greens is a deposit system for disposable e-cigarettes to encourage users to return them for recycling. “A deposit of around €10 on such disposable products could significantly improve recycling and disposal and reduce the incentive to sell them in retail stores,” said Greens Bundestag member Linda Heitmann.
The Bundesrat Environment Committee is to discuss the ban proposal on Thursday (16th February). As a federalist country, the states (Länder) play a significant role in the federal legislative process through the Bundesrat, representing their interests.
As one of the two chambers of the German legislature, along with the directly elected Bundestag, the Bundesrat has the power to approve or reject federal laws and plays a vital role in the legislative process by providing input and feedback on proposed legislation.
In the case of the Bavarian motion on a disposable e-cig ban, the Bundesrat may or may not take action. However, it is expected to use its external political influence, expressing a need for further measures. Ultimately the Bundesrat will have to give its opinion, which will be an indicator of the steps the federal government is likely to take.
The rapid wave of comment from different political parties and state authorities, including both ruling coalition and opposition parties, shows the growing concern about single-use e-cigarettes within Germany and that pressure is mounting on the federal government to take action.
Similar moves in other countries
At the same time, legislative initiatives to ban the sale of disposables are arising in a number of countries.
In the UK, Conservative MP Caroline Johnson recently put forward a cross-party bill to prohibit the sale of disposable e-cigarettes. The bill will have a second reading on 24th March. A ban is also being considered in Scotland, where the devolved government is reviewing evidence on the environmental impact of single-use vapes.
In Ireland, minister of state Ossian Smyth said in October 2022 that the government was considering banning disposables. He said he had no problem with vaping, but he was concerned about the littering of electronic devices. However, he said there should be a public consultation before any measure was taken.
France has also been considering various ways of tackling disposable e-cigs, with deputy Francesca Pasquini of the European Green and Ecology Party and the leftist NUPES alliance presenting Bill 464 to the National Assembly in November. The bill would impose a “complete ban on the manufacture, sale, distribution or free offer” of single-use e-cigarettes, which it calls “an aberration from the point of view of both public health and the environmental footprint”.
Similar initiatives have come from various NGOs, with Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) in the UK calling for a tax on disposables. The organisation wants to see a tax of £4 per disposable e-cigarette announced in the Budget on 15th March. In Australia, environmental associations have also urged the authorities to enact a standardised process for disposables to fight pollution.
– Fernanda Tucunduva ECigIntelligence staff