illicit vapes

Over one million adult smokers and recent ex-smokers may switch back to smoking or purchase illegal vapes if single-use vapes and flavours are banned, according to new findings by the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA).

It has urged the government to recognise the role of single-use vape devices and flavours as a smoking cessation tool before announcing its proposals to regulate the vape sector.

The research surveyed 2,000 adults to explore the potential impact of the government’s proposed restrictive measures on the vape sector.

The study suggests that the proposed measures ”may only benefit Big Tobacco and the illicit vape market”.

The trade association said the government risks jeopardising quit efforts and missing its own smoke-free 2030 target and potential savings, including a possible £500m a year if half of England’s adult smokers vaped instead of smoked.

Chair of the IBVTA Marcus Saxton commented ahead of the government’s response to the recent public consultation on vaping: “We all agree that children should not be using vapes and the industry is making significant efforts and progress to protect children including launching an industry code of conduct and changes to products, descriptors and flavours. We support proportionate and sensible regulation that would dissuade those from selling age restricted products to under 18s and support reductions in youth access. However, there is a very real risk that if the government introduces overly restrictive measures, such as bans on single use vapes or flavours, it will have a clear negative impact, as the research shows, by making it harder for smokers to use vaping to quit. 

He explained that with an estimated two-thirds of the UK vape market comprising to illict products, now is not the right time to punish and overrgulate the legitimate sector. “That will simply benefit those pushing illegal and unregulated products and pose a clear risk to those looking to use vaping to help them stop smoking.

“The government itself has confirmed that while not risk free, an expert independent review published by Public Health England concluded that vaping is considerably safer than smoking. The research that we are publishing today shows the critical role that vaping is playing in helping the 6.4 million smokers in the UK to quit. We stand ready to work with government to implement a proportionate regulatory regime.”

The study also found that the public’s understanding of vaping’s benefits among smokers has also diminished due to the stream of negative headlines. According to research published by UCL in December 2023 the decline in smoking rate has stalled in part due to the negative headlines around vaping.