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

The interim Fairer Scotland Duty assessment for the proposed prohibition of the sale and supply of single-use vapes.

Low incomes, low wealth and material deprivation

27. 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].

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. A recent study concluded that approximately 1 in 20 adults (~2.6 million) in the UK would be affected by a ban on single-use vapes. [49] 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 little 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.

31. 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.

32. 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).

33. 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).

34. 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.

35. 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.

36. 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.

37. 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’.

38. 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.

39. 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 42 compared to those using reuseable vapes as shown in the report.

40. The 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.

41. 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 during the consultation will help us to understand this better.



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