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Open Letter: dear Independent British Vape Trade Association

To whom it may concern at the Independent British Vape Trade Association,

My name is Jamie, I work for a vape shop in Northampton called Right Vape. We are a vape shop that pride ourselves on our commitment to smoking cessation work. We have been trading for 5 years, and have always strived to provide customers with an exemplary level of customer service, and smoking cessation expertise.

Across our years trading, the vaping industry as a whole has experienced a few hurdles in the road, from popcorn lung, to the rise in vape deaths across the US. However, we are now facing what appears to be one of our biggest hurdles yet, disposable vapes.

Across the UK, disposable vapes now dominate the market, and whilst we appreciate that they have been a great tool for introducing people to vaping, the continuous demand for these products is becoming an issue, not just for the vaping industry, but also for people’s health, wealth, and the planet too.

As you are aware, disposable vapes contain 2% nicotine according to the packaging; which although true, this is highly misleading to most consumers. 2% nicotine, means 20mg of nicotine, the legal maximum for the UK under TPD regulations. This is something that most consumers don’t recognise, they see 2% and think its a low dose, and therefore, we are having regular conversations with customers about this. While we appreciate that part of our role as a vape shop is to educate the general public about vapes, we believe that there needs to be clearer labelling of these products.

Although the dosage of nicotine in these products is a big issue, this is by far the only issue. When looking at the components of a disposable vape, you will typically see that they are made predominantly of plastic, which is not recyclable, additionally they contain a battery, usually a lithium-ion battery, ranging anywhere from 280mAh to 600mAh.

Under the Gov waste batteries regulations (2009), it is compulsory that all lithium-ion batteries are collected and recycled. These regulations also prevent these batteries from being incinerated, or dumped in landfill. Although these regulations are in place, the amount of these disposable vapes that are just left on the street, or thrown into a general waste bin, is ever growing. This is a clear problem across the UK. Personally, I know I can’t walk down the street without seeing at least a few discarded disposable vapes. Considering the state of our planet as it is, we don’t need to be adding unnecessary fuel to the fire, by improper disposal of lithium-ion batteries, and non-recyclable plastics.

Another massive source of waste within disposables, is the plastic covering seen on the majority of disposable vaping products. On April 1st 2022, the UK government introduced the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) which “applies at a rate of £200/tonne on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic, manufactured or imported into the UK (including packaging on goods which are imported).”, however, as a retailer, we are still unclear on this implication this will have on us, in regards to disposable vapes.

As a vape shop, we are taking steps to educate our customers on the benefits of switching to a refillable device, however, as a small business we can only do so much, which is why we need your help.

Additionally, we have spent hours contacting trading standards in regards to the influx of illegal, non TPD compliant disposable vapes that have stormed the market. While there are many legal disposables on the market, there is a concerning amount of these illegal disposables readily available for purchase across the country, whether that be online or in stores.

TPD regulations are in place to ensure that these products are safe for use and human consumption. These rules aren’t there to annoy us, or make our lives difficult, they are in place to keep us safe, and to ultimately make sure vaping is safe.

The increasing amount of disposables that contain anywhere from 3,500 puffs all the way to 10,000 puffs, are products that are clearly breaching the current TPD standards that the UK is supposed to be following. 600-800 puffs is the standard amount of puffs you will see on a TPD compliant 2ml disposable vape, the 3,500 puff ones on average have around 10ml of liquid, and this rises with the increase of puffs per disposable.

Additionally, with these products breaching TPD regulations in one aspect (being the tank size), there is clear evidence that another point in the TPD regulations is also being breached. On a few websites that we have found, as well as some local stores, you are able to purchase 50mg / 5% disposables, which contain more than double the maximum amount of nicotine as per UK laws. Additionally, there have even been reported cases of disposable vapes being labelled as 2%/20mg, however, upon testing, these products have been found to contain more than double that, at 50.4mg, leading to a HSE health warning to be published across Ireland. This was reported across multiple news sources, including the Irish Independent, which are quoted having said “46 Aroma King disposable e-cigarettes in a number of ranges and flavours were sampled and analysed by the HSE and found to have a nicotine concentration higher than the allowed amount, with levels up to 50.4mg/ml detected. This is as the declared nicotine concentration on the packaging indicates a nicotine concentration of 20mg/ml.”.

As these companies are breaching TPD regulations in these ways, who’s to say they are following any of the other points layed out in the TPD legislation? We don’t know if the juice inside these devices is being tested, and whether they contain ingredients that are banned in the EU and UK.

Furthermore, we have recently been in contact with 2 national payment providers who provide payment services to the majority of the online traders. We had to inform them that they are providing merchant services to multiple websites which are selling these illegal products.

During these conversations, we are having to educate payment providers on TPD regulations, and why these products being sold are in fact illegal to be sold in the UK. Following these conversations, one provider has pulled merchant services for the 3 sites we reported, and another provider has escalated this issue as high as possible, and are creating an ongoing policy to ensure these products are no longer available for sale online.

Despite our success in regards to these conversations, we are becoming concerned that we are the only people raising this issue with payment providers directly. We would like to know what else is being done by yourselves to raise awareness of the legality of these products, and to get them off the market.

As the Independent British Vape Trade Association, we would appreciate some communication with yourselves regarding the recent influx of both legal and illegal disposable vape products, and what more we can do to help the situation, as well as what steps are currently being taken to combat this ever growing issue that is impacting the whole of our industry.

Many thanks,

Jamie Ridley
Stop Smoking Specialist | Retail Leader