The government is committed to achieving a smoke-free generation by 2030. However, with disposable vapes now so readily available for our children to purchase, we risk creating a new generation of nicotine addicts and a new threat to our natural environment in the process.
With the use of bright colours, enticing sweet flavours and a popular prominence on social media sites such as TikTok, it is perhaps no wonder that an NHS survey published last year found that almost one-in-five fifteen-year-olds considered themselves e-cigarette users. But they are not harmless toys that produce clouds of strawberry-scented smoke; they are addictive.
E-cigarettes and vapes are a successful aid to quitting smoking, but we should not allow their addictive chemical composition also to lure our children into a life of nicotine addiction.
A vape’s accessibility to our children is enhanced by its disposability. Compared to their original reusable counterpart, disposable vapes are cheaper, easier to discard when parents turn up unexpectedly, and subsequently easier to replace when a child goes out. A perfect mix for children wanting to follow a trend that they know their parents would disapprove of.
For some people, even the bin is an optional extra, as disposable vapes are increasingly found littered on our streets and in our natural environment. With 1.3 million disposable vapes thrown away every week, this represents a significant threat to our wildlife and natural environment.
The harm that the littering of single-use items can cause to our natural environment is well documented and something this government has been seeking to address, most recently with Defra’s ban on single-use plastic cutlery and plates.
Unlike plastic knives and forks that can take hundreds of years to degrade, incorrect discarding of disposable vapes, even into a bin, also poses an almost immediate fire risk. This is because, as well as their colourful plastic outer shell, disposable vapes also contain lithium batteries.
Lithium is a critical mineral that net zero technologies depend on. Although lithium is present in each of these vapes in only small quantities, when looking at the market as a whole, the ten tonnes of lithium discarded from disposable vapes each year is the same as needed to create the batteries of 1200 electric vehicles.
Even if these items were not littered, there is a lack of infrastructure in place to capture these materials for recycling. As it stands, this critical mineral is being imported from far-flung corners of the world to quickly end up as waste anyway.
We must do something about disposable vapes to protect our children and planet. That is why I am introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill this week in Parliament to prohibit the sale of disposable e-cigarettes and vapes.
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