The government’s plans for the ban on disposable vapes have been heavily criticised by the retail industry.

The regulations, published alongside an impact assessment, puts forward 1 April 2025 as the date for the proposed introduction of the ban on disposables, as well as provides more detail on the £200 fines that will be issued for non-compliance. The regulations extend to England and Wales, but currently only apply to England as the Welsh Government is yet to set out its approach on the ban.

In the government’s impact assessment on the regulations, the total estimated financial impact between now and 2033 is more than £9bn. However, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) queries the figures used, stating that the impact assessment has based these figures on the estimated profit or margin from disposables being 24%, which it says is not accurate.

The ACS also flagged the fact that the impact assessment also makes the assumption that while the government expects there to be 100% compliance with the regulations, there are concerns about the illicit trade after the introduction of a ban.

ACS chief executive James Lowman warned that the government was being “naïve” about the process and that fundamental problems need to be addressed. “The Government is at best being incredibly naïve about what is going to happen after the disposable vapes ban comes into force, convincing themselves that banning something will mean it ceases to exist. There are a wide range of fundamental problems with the impact assessment, chief of which is a drastic underestimation of the financial impact of a disposable vapes ban on retailers. Using the overall turnover figure for retail businesses to calculate the profit loss of a ban on disposables marks a complete failure in understanding the category.”

Lowman also raised the issue of utilising out of date regulations in the assessment.

“The impact assessment also incorrectly refers to out of date WEEE regulations and thresholds on vape recycling that already changed in January this year. Given that these are regulations based on environmental concerns, it would seem important to be able to make an assessment that is accurate based on rules that are in force already to increase recycling rates of vapes.

“There is nothing in the regulations or the impact assessment that will deter criminals and rogue traders, who will carry on regardless. To pretend that this will do anything but boost the illicit trade is fantasy policymaking.”

Consumer polling conducted by Yonder on behalf of ACS found that 24% of existing vape users intend to continue using disposables after the ban comes into effect, pushing them towards the illicit trade as it will be the only place where they will be able to get products. The research found that the illicit market already accounts for around a third of disposable vapes used in the UK.