Are vapes being banned in the UK? Everything to know following child addiction fears

The government is looking into banning disposable vapes - we explain when, why, and the concerns around the impact of vaping on children

A pile of disposable vapes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Discussions around the impact of vaping have been circling for a while, and now many want to know if vapes are being banned in the UK.

While vaping can be an effective quitting tool for smokers, it has become popular among those without a pre-existing nicotine addiction. And with concerns around health risks and lung problems linked to vaping, the UK government is beginning to crack down on the vape industry. It's already a habit that could result in a £2k fine if you're caught vaping while driving, but most recently the main concerns have centred around the number of teenagers and young people who have taken up vaping. 

Disposable vapes often come in sweet and fruity flavours, packaged in colourful and eye-catching boxes and frequently placed near confectionery in shops, all of which has led the government to accuse companies of targeting children with their marketing. Much like the dangerous TikTok trends that have caused concern among parents in recent years, the availability of vapes is an increasing source of worry, and the potential impact on children has led to a proposed ban on vapes.

Are vapes being banned in the UK?

Disposable vapes are expected to be banned under new laws. The Telegraph reported that it had seen evidence of plans to ban disposable vapes in shops in order to protect those under 18 from becoming addicted or developing health issues. 

While the ban hasn't yet been confirmed, science and technology secretary Michelle Donelan has refused to deny it, telling Sky News that it is something the government had been "looking into", adding, "We'll be making further announcements on this."

Vapes on a shop counter with a sign advertising them for £5

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Speaking further on the issue, Ms Donelan said, "This is a very worrying trend that we're seeing, of young children taking up vaping that had never smoked before, and it is extremely dangerous to their health and their wellbeing is something that we do need to act on."

As well as considering a potential ban, minsters have also pledged to crack down on vape marketing that targets children and young people, and close a loophole that allows shops to offer free samples of vapes to children in England.

There will also be a review into banning retailers selling "nicotine-free" vapes to under-18s as well as a review of the rules on issuing fines to shops that illegally sell vapes to children.

And it's not just the UK that is considering a disposable vape band, with France considering a ban by the end of 2023 and the European Union expected to follow suit in 2026. 

Meanwhile, Australia has banned all forms of vaping without a prescription and Germany has prohibited flavoured e-cigarettes. 

When are vapes being banned in the UK?

There is no confirmed ban and therefore no date for when the new laws couldcome into force. However, if the ban does go ahead it could come as early as next week (w/c September 18).

The decision to ban single-use vapes will be revealed in a consultation released by the Department of Health and Social Care next week, as reported by the The Telegraph.

Why are vapes being banned in the UK?

The decision to ban disposable vapes stems from health and environmental concerns. There are concerns around the long-term effect of vaping - particularly in children - while The Local Government Association (LGA) has described disposable vapes as "a hazard" for waste collectors and said they are "almost impossible to recycle without going through special treatment".

Disposable vapes and their packaging among leaves on the floor

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Research from recycling campaign group Material Focus found that more than seven million single-use vapes are bought every week in the UK, but only 17 per cent of people correctly recycle their vapes in a shop or local recycling centre.

In addition, the group found that the number of disposable vapes thrown away has quadrupled to five million per week over the past year.

David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "Single-use vapes blight our streets as litter, are a hazard in our bin lorries, are expensive and difficult to deal with in our recycling centres. Their colours, flavours and advertising are appealing to children and the penalties for retailers selling them don't go far enough."

On health concerns, England's chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, has said previously: "If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape; marketing vapes to children is utterly unacceptable."

The government is understood to have stopped short of a ban on all vaping without a prescription because it sees vaping as a good alternative for adults who smoke.

Child addiction concerns: Everything to know

Recent years have seen a large increase in vaping among teenagers and young adults, with health professionals worried about the long-term effects of vaping from a  young age. 

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that just under one in six people aged 16-24 vape at least occasionally – up from one in nine in 2021. Meanwhile, NHS research found that e-cigarette use for 15 year old girls increased from 10% in 2018 to 21% (around 1 in 5) in 2021.

A young woman vaping

(Image credit: Getty Images)

These figures have been reflected in hospital admissions, with the NHS reporting that 40 children and young people were admitted to hospital in England last year due to "vaping-related disorders", which included lung damage or worsening asthma symptoms - up from 11, reported two years earlier. 

Meanwhile, research from The Hospital for Sick Children presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress found that young people who vape are twice as likely to report chronic stress compared with peers who abstain.

While selling vapes to under 18s is illegal, nicotine-free products can be sold, and there are currently no nationwide legal restrictions or laws enforced on vaping in public areas in the UK. 

However, there are concerns around the proposed ban on vapes, with some worried that it may lead to a flood of illegal products on the market. 

Scott Butler, executive director at Material Focus, said the ban could lead to "hard-to-control illegal sales and an established illegal vape market". He added: "If the legitimate industry is banned, then there will be no mechanism to deal with all the operational challenges and costs of illegally sold vapes which have the same challenges."

In other news, one mum has warned parents over a popular baby craze, while Busted's Charlie Simpson has highlighted issues over secondary drowning risks for children, after his own son was sent to hospital.

Ellie Hutchings
Features Editor

Ellie is Goodto’s Feature Editor, having joined the team as a Junior Features Writer in 2022, and covers everything from wellbeing for parents to the latest TV and entertainment. Ellie has covered all the latest trends in the parenting world, including baby names, parenting hacks, and foodie tips for busy families. She has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University, and previously Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies.