Retailers could lose out on thousands of pounds in sales if a ban on sales of disposable vapes is to go ahead.
The decision on whether to ban disposable vapes will be revealed in an upcoming consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care, according to The Daily Telegraph.
It is understood that ministers are to draw up plans to ban disposable vapes, a major profit driver for some retailers. The aim is to protect children from the devices, as leading doctors call for action.
Ian Lewis, owner of Crescent Stores Spar in Oxfordshire, told Better Retailing the decision could “ruin some businesses”, and could be “nearly as impactful as the energy crisis”.
Jet Sunner, of Michaels Supermarket in Billesley, Birmingham, highlighted the devastating impact could have on his own business, noting that the decision could cost him £2,000 to £3,000 in weekly sales.
“There will be hundreds of stores that do rely on that category as a real cash driver,” Lewis said, adding that it will be difficult to see past the profit margin.
“We’ve got to prepare ourselves for not having [disposable vapes] and do everything we can to not rely on them. It is a huge concern, especially for small retailers that are now vape destinations.”
Meanwhile, Harjit Singh, co-owner of H & Jodie’s Nisa Local in High Heath, Walsall, suggested the ban was an empty threat, and labelled the proposal as “political postering”.
“It’s not going to happen – we don’t think it’s going to happen. If they ban this, they’ve got to ban cigarettes. Children definitely need to be protected, the age restriction should be better enforced.”
In a sign that some retailers could support the move, Singh noted that if the ban did go ahead, his shop would be able to “absorb” the loss, as disposable vapes sales are only a “small part” of his business.
Yet, while Sunner recognised there could be a “loss of income”, he said he could see the upside to the ban.
“You’ve got to think about the children, you’ve got to think about the environment, there’s a lot of the disposable vapes just thrown around everywhere and they aren’t recyclable, that’s a big issue.
Sunner also noted the way forward is refillable vapes, which could fill a gap in sales.
“I know a few of these companies are going down the refillable line, where you put a new pod in. That way, you’re not disposing of it, and the environmental impact is quite low. This could be a replacement of the disposable ones.”
However, he also recognised the “good side” to vaping, with people having transitioned from use of cigarettes. “It does help, but then you get addicted to vapes. Do we go down the nanny route where we get told what to do by the government?”
Backlash to ban
Lewis also suggested a ban could drive disposable vapes within the black market – “people won’t be coming to us, but elsewhere, for them,” he pointed out.
“I was hoping they’d go dark with it like cigarettes – put them behind screens and have plain packaging.”
“We’ve all got a responsibility, you see kids of 11 or 12 puffing on a vape and wonder how that has ended up in their hands. You used to see it with cigarettes, and they haven’t bothered banning those. We’ve got responsibility as retailers to ask for ID. Our vape sales are phenomenal, so it certainly will impact us.”
John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), has stressed that a ban is “not the answer”, and no decisions have been made so far on the future of disposable vapes.
“We welcome the idea of a consultation on disposables as it’s key that the industry gets the opportunity to highlight the benefits, and therefore continued need, for single-use vapes as a smoking cessation method.
He said: “Disposables have proved to be highly effective in helping smokers quit their habits due to their ease of use, accessibility and low entry price points. They are one of the main reasons as to why the number of adult smokers in Great Britain have hit record lows for the last two years according to the Office for National Statistics.”
Chris Kelly, CEO of vape supplier Phoenix 2 Retail, said that “advocating licensing, and tougher enforcement for illicit sellers and retailers selling to minors is critical”.
“Regulation is an eventuality” the category is facing, he added, and engagement with the government, regulators and trade bodies is “vital”.