The UK government recently announced a ban on disposable vapes to curb rising youth vaping rates. Additional vaping restrictions like flavor limitations, plain packaging rules, and in-store display changes are also forthcoming. Retailers have expressed worries that rather than deterring underage users, the disposable ban could expand the already thriving illicit vape market. Many also fear significant revenue hits. However, some see possible environmental benefits from nixing disposables.
Battle Against Illicit Trade
“The government is cutting their nose to spite their face. The illicit market is booming, and the government is helping it along,”said Ron Patel, owner of Ron’s News in Droitwich.
Trudy Davies of Woosnam and Davies News in Llanidloes agreed the disposable ban could grow illicit sales. “They’re targeting the wrong people because they’re banning it for the people selling them responsibly,” she said.
Davies noted the policy jeopardizes many small retailers. “A lot of independent retailers are thinking what to do next. They’re asking what the point is in investing in the next thing? The government can just pull the rug out from under your feet,” she explained.
Ian Lewis of Spar Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire said a world without disposable vapes “would be weird.” He believes the ban will greatly impact his business.
“Disposables provide such a fantastic 40-60% margin. The ban will hurt our overall margin,” Lewis said.
Similarly, Nishi Patel of Londis Bexleyheath in Kent warned the ban comes when retailers already face thinning margins.
“There’s nothing out there with strong margins that sells like disposable vapes,” he said. “It’s going to ruin a lot of people, especially with the cigarette ban – what are we supposed to be selling?”
Industry Braces for Impact
The wider vaping industry is also anxious about the policy’s effects.
“Many businesses like mine will be challenged – they have millions of pounds worth of inventory,” said Chris Kelly, director of vape marketing agency Phoenix 2 Retail.
“Banning single use is risky because we already have a large illicit market in the UK. The ban could feed it further,” Kelly added.
A few retailers welcomed nixing disposable vapes due to environmental impacts.
“I agree they need to ban single use vapes. They cause far too much environmental damage,” said Shahid Ali, a multi-site Morrisons retailer in Aberdeen.
“We were shocked. I welcome it, convenience stores have nothing to worry about, because we’re best positioned to sell pods,” he added.