Restrictions on disposable vapes should not stop us from saving lives - Dr Stuart Griffiths
However, we are concerned that a complete ban on single-use vapes could make it harder for adults from specific, vulnerable groups to quit smoking.
Vaping is an effective stop smoking tool that successfully helps thousands of adults who smoke reduce their risk of cancer every year. Unfortunately, disposable vaping products have proven particularly appealing to young people. Their branding and marketing, with colourful imagery and sweet flavours, are clearly designed to appeal to youthful minds. This is exacerbated by a lack of regulation and a lack of enforcement of the law when it comes to their sale.
However, disposable vapes are particularly useful for some groups of people, such as those on no or little incomes who may find the initial expense of a refillable vape starter kit too great. They may not be able to keep a refillable vape charged if they do not have reliable and consistent accommodation.
Within mental health and prison settings, disposable and tamper proof devices may also help to avoid substance or device misuse. Disposable vapes have been useful in high security environments where risks with traditional vape devices and products exist. They have enabled staff and residents in these establishments to comply with smokefree policies and support stop smoking strategies.
Simply banning disposable vaping products will have a detrimental effect on these communities, while failing to address the root of the problem. A ban is unlikely to solve the wider issue of the inappropriate use of vaping products outside the context of stopping smoking. If a ban does go ahead, not only should there be clear exceptions for people who are using them to stop smoking, but it should be part of a wider package of measures, including a crackdown on illegal sales and tighter branding, marketing, and retail controls of all vaping products, such as placing them behind the counter and introducing stricter proof of age requirements.
The latest data shows that in Yorkshire, smoking rates have decreased at a faster rate than in other regions. Stop smoking services in Yorkshire are performing well, supported by additional programmes funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research. Meanwhile, rates of vaping are also continuing to increase, indicating a strong desire among people who smoke to move to a less harmful, smoke-free alternative. However, nearly half a million people still smoke in Yorkshire. Every week in our region, 90 people are diagnosed with cancer caused by smoking and sadly, 60 people in the region lose their lives.
The success of vaping products in helping people quit smoking cannot be underestimated. Evidence shows vaping can be up to twice as effective as Nicotine Replacement Therapy in helping smokers quit. Our estimates suggest that there are nearly 4,500 additional quitters each year in Yorkshire because of these products.
Vaping products are saving hundreds of lives in our region and beyond.
It’s vital that we do not see a drop in smoking rates reversed. Restrictions should not stop us saving lives.
Dr Stuart Griffiths is director of research at Yorkshire Cancer Research.