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Kent County Council calls for ban on shops selling disposable vapes over environmental and health concerns

County councillors are calling on the government to ban disposable vapes.

A motion was passed by Kent County Council (KCC) to lobby the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to stop the sale of the products because of the danger they pose to children’s health, and their impact on the environment.

The traditional and disposable vape. Picture: Stock image
The traditional and disposable vape. Picture: Stock image

It came as the Local Government Association (LGA), which wants them off the shelves by 2024, claimed 1.3m vapes are thrown away each week.

Vapes, which are an increasingly popular alternative to tobacco, are used to inhale nicotine-infused vapour.

Many are offered in gaudy packaging and sweet fruit flavours designed to attract the young.

Green Party member Jenni Hawkins, who proposed the ban among KCC members, said lithium used in the single use item’s battery should be recycled.

They are also alleged to be unstable and prone to bursting into flames if crushed. More than 700 bin lorry fires and recycling centres were as a result of disposables.

Kent County Councillor Jenni Hawkins
Kent County Councillor Jenni Hawkins

Cllr Hawkins, who represents Hythe West, argued: “Disposing of vapes is also wasteful; lithium is a material that is critical to the net zero transition, and the 10 tonnes of lithium discarded from disposable vapes each year is the same as that needed for 1,200 electric cars.”

Cllr Clair Bell (Con), cabinet member for public health, conceded vaping is a “relatively new activity”.

The member for Ashford Rural East believes a blanket ban could prove to be counter-productive.

There is a concern that outlawing the disposable vape would merely force the business underground.

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Disposable vapes are fundamentally flawed in their design and inherently unsustainable products, meaning an outright ban will prove more effective than attempts to recycle more vapes.”

There are fears vapes are damaging children’s health. Picture: Stock image
There are fears vapes are damaging children’s health. Picture: Stock image

According to the LGA, councils are concerned by the marketing of vapes with designs and flavours that could appeal to children, in particular those with fruity and bubble gum flavours, and colourful child-friendly packaging.

It added: “Strict new measures to regulate the display and marketing of regular vaping products in the same way as tobacco are needed.”

KCC full council debated the issue, with Cllr Rory Love (Con) at odds with his own “libertarian credentials” by agreeing with the motion for a ban.

Cllr Love, member for Cheriton, Sandgate and Hythe East, said: “I am concerned about the environmental impact of disposable vapes…I am also worried about creating a new generation of people addicted to nicotine.”

According to a BBC report, figures from research firm NielsenIQ said 300m e-cigarettes (disposable and otherwise) were sold in the UK over the last year.

The vaping industry feels that the government needs to enforce fines on retailers who sell vapes to under-age customers and the revenues ring-fenced.

Kent County Councillor Clair Bell
Kent County Councillor Clair Bell

The LGA named two brands, Elfbar and Lost Mary, which it claims are aimed at younger people.

The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) believes there should be greater emphasis on recycling and using vapes are a benefit to people trying to stop smoking.

John Dunne, director general of the UKVIA, said: “Experience… shows that where blanket bans have been introduced on regulated single use vapes, there is a massive influx of illegal, untested and potentially deadly black-market products which take their place and this is in nobody’s interest.

“It also makes absolutely no sense to call for a ban on disposable vapes while ignoring the much bigger problem of smoking and its related litter which accounts for 68% of all litter in the UK and discarded cigarette butts alone cost local authorities £40 million a year to clean up.

“The negative consequences of these proposals have not been thought through and this also looks like a move by the LGA to support cash-strapped councils who don’t want to invest in the local authority’s waste management capability required to support smokers transitioning to considerably less harmful vapes.”

The KCC motion to request the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to request that disposable vapes are banned was carried by a majority of members.

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