Prohibition of the sale and supply of single-use vapes: Fairer Scotland Duty Summary

Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment (FSDA) summary for the proposed prohibition on the sale and supply of single-use vapes in Scotland.

Summary of evidence

28. A ban on the sale and supply of single-use vapes has the potential to impact everybody in Scotland who uses these items. It is however important to ensure that the impact on those who experience socio-economic disadvantage is understood. This may be experienced through low income, low wealth, material deprivation, area deprivation or socio-economic background.

29. The proposed introduction of a ban on the sale and supply of single-use vapes is intended to be UK-wide. It is anticipated that the price and availability of single-use vapes relative to reusable vapes will change as a result of market dynamics[41], regardless of any action taken by Scotland. The size of this effect is unknown at this time, however it cannot be assumed that single-use vapes would remain cheaper or more readily available than reusables.

30. A public consultation[42] on a new Vaping Products Duty closed on 29th May 2024. It set out the proposals for how a duty could be designed and implemented, and would be accompanied by a one-off increase in tobacco duties. If introduced by a future Government, it is acknowledged that the duty would result in a price increase in reusable vapes products, specifically the replacement liquid refill.

31. The possible impacts of the proposal on lower-income households have been assessed based on the available evidence. At this time, no definitive impacts have been identified for those experiencing socio-economic disadvantages. However, a small number of evidence gaps were identified. They are particularly relevant where the use of single-use vapes is to aid smoking cessation.

  • Vape use is more common in lower socioeconomic groups. This may result in a disproportionately high number of those using vapes to stop smoking being from lower income groups. Additionally, it is recognised that this group may find it harder to stop than those from higher income groups.[43]
  • Homeless groups have high rates of smoking and may be less able to use reusables than other groups of vape users.
  • The proposal may increase the short-term costs of vaping, which could impact on those from lower socio-economic groups, leading to unequal health outcomes associated with smoking cessation.
  • The proposal has potential to narrow inequalities in experience of littering.

Low incomes, low wealth and material deprivation

32. Over a million people in Scotland live in relative poverty[44] and around a quarter of them are children, with nearly half a million people in very deep poverty.[45],[46]

33. Citizens Advice Scotland has found evidence of a “poverty premium” among low-income households.[47] This suggests that individuals struggling to afford food due to rising prices, particularly towards the end of the month, might have less money to spare on non-essential items. For individuals who use vapes as an aid to smoking cessation, they may be considered essential items in terms of calculating ‘cost of living’. For individuals who vape for reasons other than smoking cessation, vapes are more likely to be considered as luxury items. This difference should be considered when determining impacts.

34. According to the 2022 household survey, 11% of those aged 16-34 and 12% of 35-59 years old said they are not managing well financially.[48] These low-income groups have the potential to be adversely impacted by the proposal if they are single-use vape users due to the higher initial cost of purchasing reusable alternatives.

35. A recent study[49] concluded that approximately 1 in 20 adults (~2.6 million) in the UK would be affected by a ban on single-use vapes. The same study suggests it is likely to have a disproportionate impact on those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, where higher rates of smoking cigarettes are common. However, there is limited insight or evidence available as to exactly what impacts may be experienced. The study suggests those from lower socio-demographic backgrounds typically find it harder to stop cigarette smoking than those from other socio-economic groups, and may rely more heavily on vapes, including single-use, to support smoking cessation efforts.

36. A ban on the sale and supply of single-use vapes will reduce the variety of vapes available. However, individuals wishing to stop smoking will remain able to access advice and support from existing organisations and support services. This includes free access to Quit Your Way Scotland[50] and NHS services such as local pharmacies. Local specialist ‘stop smoking services[51] commonly help in hospitals, GP surgeries and local community centres.

37. The Scottish Health Survey 2021[52] highlighted that current use of vapes (mixture of single-use and reusable) was more frequent with those in the bottom equivalised income quintile (11% compared with 2% in the top quintile) and in the most deprived Scottish Index Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) quintile (12% compared with 3% in the least deprived).

38. It also showed that among recent ex-smokers and current smokers who tried to quit, e-cigarettes and vapes for smoking cessation were more commonly used in the bottom equivalised income quintile (25% compared to 13% in the top quintile) and in the most deprived SIMD quintile (26% compared to 8% in the least deprived).

39. A 2023 UK-wide consultation, ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping’[53] included questions on affordability of both cigarette smoking and vaping. It suggests that there is both a significant difference between the price of cigarettes and vapes, as well as between reusable and single-use vapes.

40. The 2023 UK-wide consultation[54] suggests that currently, smoking is estimated to be on average around three times more expensive than vaping due to application of both VAT and cigarette tax. It also suggests there is a relatively wide range of costs for vapes, with single-use vapes being cheaper as a one-off purchase. The costs used in the consultation ranged from an average of £6 for single-use vapes making them the cheaper option in the short term. Reusable vapes are initially more expensive with pre-filled pods kits on average costing an average of £12 with the more complex refillable cartridge vapes an average of £40.

41. A 2024 HMRC survey-based research report[55] ‘Understanding the vaping market’ suggests that the lower cost of vaping compared to smoking cigarettes was a motivation for around a third of current vapers.

42. The summary of the 2024 HMRC report[56] suggests that there may be a cost tipping point at which the use of vapes reduces as the price rises. The report states that:

In a hypothetical situation presented in the survey, increasing the price of vapes by £1 did not notably change current vapers intention to vape with 71% saying they would be likely to vape about the same amount. However, doubling the price had more of an impact, with 62% of current vapers saying they would reduce how much they vape in this scenario’.

43. The 2024 HMRC report[57] also suggests that single-use vapes users typically spend more in a week than reusable vapes users. Single-use vapes users had an average weekly spend of £10.85 compared to reusable vape users who had an average weekly spend of £6.95.

44. A similar suggestion was received from a respondent to the public consultation on draft Scottish regulations, whereby the respondent suggested that single-use vapes quickly become more expensive for regular users, and as such the policy could benefit vapes users by reducing costs in the relatively short-term.

45. In contradiction, another respondent argued that their own research showed that vapes users choose single-use vapes due to their affordability and ease of use. The Scottish Government will consider how to best monitor and evaluate policy impacts, including how it influences behaviour change amongst current single-use vape users.

46. While the report suggests that current single-use vapers are mindful of costs, they also consumed products which are typically more expensive than reusable options in the medium to longer-term. This will have influenced the higher weekly spend as laid out in paragraph 43 compared to those using reuseable vapes as shown in the HMRC report.

47. The HMRC report goes on to suggest that survey responses from users of single-use vapes engage in ‘strategies’ to decrease costs. This included buying multiple products due to the availability of deals making it cheaper to buy in bulk, or taking advantage when retailers have 3 for 2 deals that encourage them to buy multiple disposable products at once whilst on their way to a social activity.

48. To date, it has not been possible to sufficiently and clearly assess if the proposal may have a potential impact for groups with low wealth. Views from representative groups will continue to be sought to understand this potential impact better.


49. In Scotland, there were 39,006 homelessness applications recorded in 2022-23. From April to September 2022, 1,184 homeless applicants reported rough sleeping during the previous three months (6% of all applications).[58]

50. A 2014 report for Public Health England[59] highlighted that cigarette smoking was highly prevalent among homeless individuals. Similar findings were also seen in the report from a 2021 study, ‘Exploring the uptake and use of electronic cigarettes provided to smokers accessing homeless centres: a four-centre cluster feasibility trial’.[60] However, the evidence of those experiencing homelessness who also use vapes is extremely limited at this time.

51. Those experiencing homelessness and who use vapes may rely on single-use vapes rather than reusable options. However, there is little data or evidence available at this time to confirm this. Views were sought ahead of the consultation from representative organisations to better understand what impact the proposal may have, particularly where they are used as an aid for smoking cessation. Ongoing engagement will be considered with representative groups to gain a better understanding of this potential impact, including through monitoring and impact evaluation activities.

Rural communities

52. A Scottish Government report from 2021 estimated that the minimum cost of living in ‘remote rural’ Scotland is between 15% and 30% higher than urban parts of the UK.[61] The budgets that households need to achieve a ‘minimum acceptable living standard in remote rural Scotland are typically 10-40 per cent higher than elsewhere in the UK’.[62] The research suggests that this is on account of significant additional costs, such as food, clothing, household goods and holidays.

53. It is likely, therefore, that households in remote rural Scotland require a higher income to attain the same minimum living standard as those living elsewhere in the UK.[63] While living in remote rural areas in Scotland incurs additional costs, it is unclear how people living in these areas would be impacted by the proposal. It has not been possible to determine the amount of single-use vapes that are used in these contexts and the socio-economic characteristics of the consumers.

54. Consideration was given to the impact of the proposal to overall availability, particularly to those using vapes as a method of smoking cessation. As all current retailers are anticipated to switch products to reusable alternatives, the availability of vapes for smoking cessation purposes should remain the same. Similarly, the availability of reusable vape products from online retailers is anticipated to remain the same as currently.

55. No feedback directly relevant to this potential impact was received during the public consultation. As above, it remains likely that those current retailers, including online providers, will switch to alternative products and maintain availability for smoking cessation purposes.

Reduced littering

56. In the Scottish Household Survey 2022, those living in the 20% most deprived areas were more likely to say neighbourhood problems, such as litter and graffiti, were ‘common’ than those in the least deprived (72% compared with 39%).[64] This was further supported by the Scottish Litter Survey in 2023[65]. Those living in less affluent areas are significantly more likely to view litter as a problem locally. 83% of those in the least affluent neighbourhoods viewed litter as a problem locally. This compares to 56% in the most affluent areas.

57. In the report, ‘How Clean Are Our Streets?’ [66], ‘poorer litter outcomes’ (more significant presence of litter) are more prominent in urban-based local authority areas, with 14% of sites significantly impacted by litter compared to 6% in rural-based local authority areas.[67] Furthermore, in areas of highest deprivation, close to a quarter of sites (23%) recorded a significant presence of litter compared to only 3% in the areas of least deprivation.

58. While there is little available data on what proportion of litter is vape related, Keep Scotland Beautiful have cautioned that vapes are becoming the fastest growing litter stream.[68] A 2023 report further estimated that between 21 - 26 million disposable vapes were consumed and thrown away in Scotland between April 2022 and April 2023.[69] As vapes related litter is assumed to decrease rapidly after the proposal is enacted, it is anticipated this will result in a significant positive impact.

59. No feedback directly relevant to this potential impact was received during the consultation, however it remains that a significant decrease in single-use vapes being littered is expected soon after the policy is implemented. The Scottish Government will consider how to best monitor and evaluate policy impacts, including littering.

60. A better understanding of proportional impacts is required to ensure the Scottish Government can pay due regard to the scale of socio-economic disadvantage and inequalities of outcome in relation to this proposal. Of those who responded to the consultation question on the Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment (FSDA) document, there was agreement with the potential areas of impact identified in the interim FSDA. There was further agreement that they should be monitored to identify any experienced impacts as the policy is implemented.

61. All engagement adhered to our commitments under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3. This ensures our tobacco control policies are protected from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.



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