UK to ban disposable vapes to tackle rise in young people taking up the habit

Data shows that the number of children vaping in the last three years has tripled

Any retailer selling tobacco or vapes to underage customers faces 'on-the-spot' fines of up to £2,500. Getty Images
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Shares in vaping companies sank on Monday following the news of the UK's upcoming ban on disposable vapes.

Manufacturers will also be forced to use plainer packaging and move vapes out of sight of children under the new legislation to be announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Vape flavours marketed at children will also be illegal under the plans which aim to protect children’s health and tackle a rise in the number of young people taking up the habit.

The ban is expected to come into force at the end of 2024 or the start of 2025. Chill Brands saw shares slide by as much as 35 per cent in early trading as a result, while rival business Supreme saw shares drop around 12 per cent.

Chill’s market value had fallen by over £3 million, with over £10 million knocked off Supreme’s valuation during the morning trading session.

The announcement forms part of the government’s response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, which was launched in October last year.

On Monday, Chill Brands, which makes nicotine-free vapes as well as CBD products, stressed that it is “committed to strict compliance with all relevant laws”.

Callum Sommerton, chief executive of Chill, said it will continue to sell its products across UK and US retailers but they are prepared to adjust to rule changes.

He said: “The vaping landscape is constantly evolving, creating opportunities for businesses that are able to navigate the regulatory environment.

“Chill Brands Group is an agile company, and we are prepared to adjust to any legislation that may be enacted.”

Rival Supreme, which has brands including 88Vape, also saw its shares knocked by the announcement. The company, which has yet to comment on the latest announcement, said in October that it was “fully supportive of any further legislation in the sector”.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said companies caught up in the government’s clampdown “face a sharp hit to earnings” if there continues to be new measures against vaping.

He added: “Chill Brands implies it is not affected by the latest announcement because recharging ports on its products mean they are not classified as disposable. The market seems to question this logic given the fierce share price sell-off.

“Effectively, investors are saying there is a major risk to earnings, whether it is from Mr Sunak’s latest announcement or the general direction of travel by the government to stop young people getting into the vaping habit.”

Under the new law, any retailer selling tobacco or vapes to underage customers faces “on-the-spot” fines of up to £2,500.

Vaping alternatives – such as nicotine pouches – will also be banned for children.

The move comes at a time when data shows that the number of children vaping in the last three years has tripled, with 9 per cent of children aged between 11 and 15 now using the devices.

Disposable vapes have driven the increase. The proportion of 11 to 17-year-old vapers using disposables has increased almost nine-fold in the past two years, the government said.

The measures are part of its response to its consultation on smoking and vaping, launched in October last year. Other countries, including France, are planning on introducing similar bans.

Mr Sunak plans to outlaw anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, from buying tobacco, in a bid to create a “smoke-free generation”.

“The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable,” the Prime Minister said.

The measures drew an immediate backlash from both the industry and the right of the ruling Conservative party.

Liz Truss, the former prime minister, said Mr Sunak’s plan was an anti-Conservative extension of the “nanny state”.

“Adults must be able to make their own choices,” Ms Truss said. “Banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later will create an absurd situation where adults enjoy different rights based on their birth date.”

The UK Vaping Industry Association said it was “dismayed” by the decision.

Vapes “have been instrumental in bringing the UK’s smoking rates down to a record low and have played a key role in helping millions of adults quit and stay off cigarettes”, the association said.

“This counterproductive legislation will sooner put children at greater risk by turbocharging the black market and, in turn, making it easier for them to access illicit and non-compliant vapes.”

Five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week, a number that it says is “equivalent to the lithium batteries of 5,000 electric vehicles”.

The Welsh and Scottish governments will join England in introducing the ban.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is not sitting since the collapse of power-sharing two years ago.

In a pre-emptive strike against potential smugglers, £30 million of new funding a year will be provided to bolster enforcement agencies, including the UK Border Force.

Health professionals welcomed the move.

“Bold action was always needed to curb youth vaping and banning disposables is a meaningful step in the right direction,” said Mike McKean, vice president for policy at The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

“I’m also extremely pleased to see further much-needed restrictions on flavours, packaging and marketing of vapes.”

Updated: January 29, 2024, 11:07 AM