Council calls on Government to ban sale of single-use disposable vapes
At December’s full council meeting, councillors asked the Leader of Sheffield City Council to write to the Secretary of State asking for single-use disposable vapes to be banned. This in response to the increase in youth vaping and the impact these devices are having on the environment and the wellbeing of our children.
Councillor Tom Hunt, Leader of Sheffield City Council, sent the letter to Rt Hon Victoria Atkins MP, the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care and said:
“We’re already working hard in the city to reduce smoking which still causes many preventable deaths each year. Vaping has been shown to help adult smokers to quit, but if you don’t smoke you shouldn’t start vaping. We need to continue to do our best to stop children smoking, but we don’t want them to start vaping either. We want children to be healthy and not enticed by harmful products that are being deliberately marketed to them.
"In addition, the environmental impact of disposal single use vapes is too significant to not take action. This is why we are putting pressure on the Government to do what they can to protect children from harm and to protect the environment by banning the sale of single-use disposable vapes."
Dear Secretary of State
Banning the sale of single-use disposable vapes
I am writing to you on behalf of Sheffield City Council regarding single use (‘disposable’) vapes and calling on your government to ban the sale of these products. This follows a motion passed in the December 2023 Council meeting. We join many other concerned local authorities, along with health and environmental organisations across the country, who rightly recognise the impact these devices are having on the environment and the wellbeing of our children.
Pursuing a smokefree future for the people of Sheffield remains our main focus. Smoking is responsible for illness, reduced life and healthy-life expectancy, decreased workforce productivity and increased NHS and social care demand. It remains the leading cause of preventable death in the UK with 15% of all deaths in 2019 attributed to it, and a significant contributor to health disparities.
We very much welcome the recent Government proposals to raise the age of sale of tobacco and look forward to seeing this pass-through Parliament. We have written to our local MPs urging them to pledge their support for this proposal, which will benefit every single constituent in Sheffield.
We recognise that there is significant evidence that vapes are an effective and important smoking cessation aid for adults. Locally, we have introduced vapes as part of our Stop Smoking Service offer, which has contributed to large increases in referrals and four-week quits. We have also seen the rapid increase in rates of vape use among young people. This is driven by the availability and attractiveness of disposable vapes to this vulnerable group.
We do not want to see a new generation of children addicted to nicotine through a habit that funds the tobacco industry profits and harms their health. Vaping and nicotine addiction is causing significant disruption to daily school life, including reduced attendance and poor levels of concentration. Peer pressure is driving more children to experiment with vapes. We also know some are targeted by dealers and criminal gangs and recruited to sell vapes infused with spice, THC and other substances within the school, raising serious clinical and child safeguarding issues. All this is leading to an increase in school exclusions, some children being hospitalised, both with attendant consequences.
The environmental risks posed by disposable vapes are significant. Around 5 million vapes are thrown away each week in the UK, a large source of litter on our streets. This also represents a huge waste of critical elements needed for the clean energy transition, in addition to. hazardous chemicals leaching into the soil and water.
We recognise the difficult balance that needs to be struck between protecting children and the environment, and the increased pressure that additional regulation can place on organisations responsible for enforcement. Our Trading Standards Team are working alongside South Yorkshire Police and other partners to tackle illegal and underage sales of tobacco and vapes. They inform me they are currently overwhelmed by the demand for their services. Sheffield City Council supports a ban of disposal vapes, even if the government chooses to ban these products investment in enforcement will still be needed.
We urge the Government to ensure sufficient investment for enforcement action by Trading Standards and others to restrict the supply of illicit vapes. The additional £30m proposed by Government to target underage sales and the import of illicit tobacco and vaping products will not be enough to effectively respond to the increased demand for the illegal market. As well as sufficient resources for enforcement, counteracting this increase will require further regulation, such as that proposed in the recent consultation, to reduce the affordability, appeal and accessibility of vapes to children. Colourful, child-friendly packaging and advertisements designed specifically to target and appeal to children and young people is wholly inappropriate.
All the above considered, I believe that a ban on single-use disposable vapes is a critical move forward in addressing and curbing the trend in youth vaping, protecting both the environment and the wellbeing of our children.
I look forward to your response on this matter.
Councillor Tom Hunt, Leader of Sheffield City Council