Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Should UK Tax Disposable Vapes?


The organisation ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) are one of the many calling for an additional Tax on UK Disposable Vapes.

As predicted there has been a huge backlash against disposable vapes, with many concerns such as ease of access for under age vapers, waste and environmental damage.

I am writing this from a pretty neutral stance – I can see the appeal of disposables for those who may have physical difficulties or simply not quite technical enough to operate other types of vape. I know if she was still alive my Mom for instance would choose a disposable.

Also for those wanting to try vaping without a large outlay for equipment may choose a disposable – hopefully transitioning to a refillable device over time.

I personally see disposables as a short term solution for most people and would encourage them to upgrade to refillable kits as soon as possible. It is in their benefit to do so as you have more freedom of e-liquid choice and of course less expense and waste.

I am also aware of the excessive waste issues and believe there should be incentives for users to return the empty vapes for a free device to encourage recycling.

Taxing Disposables

So a possible solution to help curb the use of disposable vapes is to tax them at a higher rate than other vapes.

The press release from ASH states…

“Following increases in youth vaping and amid growing concerns among parents, teachers and local authorities, ASH is calling on the government to act without delay to strengthen regulation and fund enforcement, setting out its recommendations in a plan of action published today.

As a first step ASH recommends excise tax on single use (disposable) vapes to be implemented in the Budget on March 15th. This would immediately reduce the affordability of these products, which are the most popular vapes with children and can currently be bought for under a fiver.

Adding an excise tax of £4 per disposable vape could bring the price up to the same level as the cheapest re-usable vapes, while still less expensive than cigarettes, which are the most harmful product. This would make disposable vapes significantly less affordable for children, and discourage the use of these environmentally damaging products by adults.”

I can see the point of this, making disposables still cheaper than cigarettes but pricing them higher to discourage their purchase.

But I also see that this is unlikely to make much difference. If you are an Ex-Smoker like me – I am sure you told yourself many times “when cigarettes reach £? I will stop smoking”. Many times this guide price was exceeded and we still bought them.

Also really the problem is not necessarily the well policed shops who sell disposables, as they should not be sold to under 18’s anyway! How are those who are under age getting hold of them? If dodgy “under the counter” tactics in small retailers are being used, they won’t be sold legally with correct tax applied?

My opinion is that the Trading Standards organisations require more funding in order to police and track illegal sales and act upon them.

Opposing Viewpoints

The WVA (World Vapers Alliance) have pushed back against this saying these measures could push people back to smoking cigarettes.

Michael Landl the director of the WVA says…

“It is important to do everything we can to keep nicotine products out of adolescents’ hands, but policies must go further to the root of the problem. Simple bans and tax increases will only create an illicit market without any age or quality checks”

Which is a very good point, if there are dodgy “under the counter” sales of vapes this will only increase the market for knock off devices which could have poor quality materials and ingredients.

The Adam Smith Institute also argue against these proposals saying that the actual amount of Lithium being discarded in each vape is a trivial amount.

“The single use vape market appears to be worth some £750 million a year. At a fiver a piece that’s 150 million units. Oh, and when we run the numbers back the other way each vape contains half a penny’s worth of lithium. At today’s very high valuation that is.”

The NNA (New Nicotine Alliance) called the suggestions “short sighted and counterproductive”.

They point out the 2022 ASH survey highlights that only 0.5% of 11-17 year olds who regularly vape were not former smokers. The majority are those who otherwise would be smoking.

Plus their suggestions have a much more “common sense” message…

“The proposals should be weighed against the other policy options available which could alleviate some of the perceived problem and would be more amenable to helping people switch. For example, zero rating VAT on refillable devices but not on disposables could be a nudge to better choices of device. A deposit scheme for single use devices and educational materials would encourage users to return them to be suitably recycled. If the goal is to make disposables less affordable to adolescents, raising the arbitrary EU-imposed tank size in single use vapes from 2ml to 10ml would make them more expensive than refillables. This would mirror the ban on sales of ten packs of cigarettes which was supported by public health groups to set costs of smoking beyond the budget of minors.”

I totally agree with the above, make refillable devices more attractive financially.

Ecigclick Followers Opinion

I asked our Twitter followers for their opinion – the results are below…

Disposable vapes are in the news again.

Do you feel they should have a higher tax rate than other vaping products?

— EcigClick (@EcigClick) March 8, 2023

As you can see the results are pretty even for and against…


Excellent article by @worstall at @ASI on the “insanity” of proposals to ban or double the price of single use vapes in the UK. https://t.co/JFSN2ofUs8

— Martin C (@NannyFreeState) February 14, 2023

An excise tax of £4 could raise the price to the same level as the cheapest re-usable vapes, while still less than cigarettes. This would make disposable vapes far less affordable for children, and discourage the use of these environmentally damaging products by adults. pic.twitter.com/6q41BU7PJa

— ASH (@AshOrgUK) February 13, 2023

Disposable vapes – we’re finding them littered on our beaches and it’s time to take action! We’re working with @ashscotland @KSBScotland @LessWasteLaura to call on the Scottish Government to reduce the impact of disposable vapes on the environment ❌https://t.co/aiZmTjAVeV

— Marine Conservation Society (@mcsuk) February 17, 2023

🇬🇧 UK ministers are considering imposing higher taxes on vaping products in response to the last year’s Khan review. The World Vapers’ Alliance points out that increased prices and a potential flavour ban are missing the target. 🚫https://t.co/e5LMuYlmPv

— World Vapers’ Alliance (@vapers_alliance) March 2, 2023

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