Prohibition of the sale and supply of single-use vapes: island communities impact screening assessment

The interim island communities impact screening assessment for the proposed prohibition of the sale and supply of single-use vapes.

Data and Stakeholders


31. Summary of activities:

  • Framing exercise: Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government discussion.
  • Evidence-gathering: quantitative and qualitative data and evidence were sourced, including evidence from existing large Scotland- and UK-level surveys and evidence from other relevant policy impact assessments.

32. Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government undertook an initial scoping exercise to identify ways in which the impact of the policy could differ for island communities in February 2024. Island community representatives will be engaged during the consultation period, as detailed in paragraph 60.

33. A number of potential impacts were identified prior to and during the framing exercise:

  • Potential increase in the cost of reusable vape product for consumers; initially, the cost of reusable vapes is higher compared to single-use items.
  • Requirement for island retailers to change their business model to sell reusable vapes products only.
  • Availability of vapes after the proposal comes into force.
  • Waste management - reduced costs from reduction of single-use vapes requiring end of life disposal.
  • Reduced litter cleansing costs as the availability of commonly-littered single-use vapes is restricted.
  • Requirement for communications materials to made available in Gaelic.

34. The framing exercise identified a limited number of potential impacts. As a result, a desk-based approach was considered to be appropriate for this stage of the ICIA and has been used to source existing data and evidence.

35. All engagement will adhere 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.

Impacts which are not significantly different for island communities

36. Early discussions during the framing exercise on the following three areas initially highlighted the potential for differential impacts. However, after further discussion and desktop-based research it was determined there would be no differential impacts. Reasoning for these decisions can be found below.

Island retailers change to business model to sell reusable vapes products only

37. We estimate around 123 businesses across the islands sell vapes[42]. Of these shops, 20 are currently registered to sell vapes but not tobacco products, with the remainder selling both vapes and tobacco products. We expect all current retailers to switch their products to reusable alternatives and their associated products.

38. This requirement would be the same for businesses across Scotland. We found no reason this would be disproportionately expensive or problematic for those operating in island communities. The accompanying Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) considers business impacts further.

Availability of vapes after the proposal comes into force

39. 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 for those on islands.

Vapes proposal communication materials in Gaelic

40. Gaelic is an integral part of Scotland’s national identity, cultural heritage and history and the Scottish Government are committed to the promotion and inclusion of the Gaelic language and speakers where possible[43].

41. The number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland is significantly higher in island communities compared to mainland Scotland. According to the 2011 census, around 1.1 of the population across Scotland[44] can speak, read or understand Gaelic. This increases to more than 50% in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and around 4-5% in Highland and Argyll & Bute council areas. [45]

42. As service providers and retailers operating in island communities already incorporate Gaelic into their communications, it is expected this would continue to be the case with this proposal without further intervention. It is therefore concluded that no further exploration of provision for Gaelic language communications is required.

43. The accompanying public consultation will provide opportunities for island communities to comment on these issues. The findings of this engagement, along with any future research findings will be fed into future updates to this assessment.

Impacts which are potentially significantly different for island communities

44. The following issues were considered to have the potential to have different impacts for island communities, and are a combination of positive and negative impacts:

  • Cost of product for consumers (negative)
  • Waste management costs (positive)
  • Cleansing/litter costs (positive)

45. These issues are explored in more detail below.

Cost of product

46. A Scottish Government report from 2021 estimates that cost of living in rural Scotland, including the islands, is between 15% and 30% higher than urban parts of the UK[46]. The budgets that households need to achieve a ‘minimum acceptable’ living standard in rural Scotland are typically 10-40% higher than elsewhere in the UK[47].

47. The cost of reusable vapes from online sources will likely remain constant between islands and the mainland. However, costs of reusable vapes purchased on islands from local businesses are potentially subject to the higher islands cost of living[48].

48. We acknowledge that the cost of switching may be proportionately higher compared to the mainland. However, there is no evidence to suggest there will be a significant difference as a proportion of overall household spending on vapes compared to the mainland.

49. It is therefore concluded that no further exploration of the cost of products is required for island communities as a result of this proposal as there is likely to be a minimal difference in proportion of household spend on vapes compared to the mainland.

Waste management costs

50. Islands communities face unique challenges around waste management due to the reliance on ferry capacity to ship waste to end-destinations, distances involved in collection and disposal of material, and the requirement to bulk waste for movement off-island (see para. 48). The proposal being consulted upon aims to ban the sale and supply of single-use vapes in Scotland. This should result in no single-use vapes being seen in waste or recycling collections soon after the regulations are introduced[49].

51. Work undertaken for previous screening assessments under the Islands (Scotland) Act[50] has identified that island authorities face higher costs per capita in collecting, transporting and disposing of waste, as the rural nature of collection routes means they are less efficient. The 8-fold Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification highlights the majority of the island authorities have high proportions of their populations in very rural small towns and rural areas.[51]

52. Any reduction in single-use vapes has the potential to reduce island waste management costs, particularly where waste is required to be shipped off the island for disposal elsewhere as in the case of WEEE. As such, there is the potential for there to be a proportionately higher positive island impact from this policy.

53. A key principle in managing WEEE is the “polluter pays” principle, which underpins many environmental measures. The current system of WEEE Producer Responsibility (PR) is based on ‘collective producer responsibility’. Unlike in an individual producer responsibility scheme, producers do not have to individually finance the collection and reprocessing of exclusively their own equipment. Rather, the entire market’s WEEE is collected, reprocessed, and collectively paid for based on the fraction of each producer’s market share, by weight, of each category of WEEE. As vapes fall under a broad category, it is highly likely that all producers within that category (whether vapes or otherwise) share in the cost of recycling vapes.

54. Proposed changes to the current producer responsibility UK scheme for WEEE, which includes used vapes, has recently been consulted on. The consultation included a proposal to create a new discrete category for vapes to ensure vape producers properly finance recycling costs when they become waste. Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations for WEEE have recently been consulted upon, which includes the costs of collection, transport, treatment, and disposal of WEEE.

55. After the ban on sale and supply of single-use vapes is enacted, producers of reusable vapes will continue to finance costs for the correct collection and management of their products. Costs will be determined through modelling for efficient and effective services. We expect island specifics (e.g. geography, ferry transport) to be taken into account to ensure that higher island waste management costs are correctly modelled. This would include costs for any future kerbside collection of WEEE, and the current separate vape provisions at household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs).

56. When reviewing proposed changes to the existing WEEE scheme and bringing in extended producer responsibility, it will be important to be mindful of the Scottish island context to ensure that there are not unintended consequences for island authorities with regards to managing end of life vapes.

57. The Island Community Impact Assessment for the consultation on ‘Reforming the UK producer responsibility system for waste electrical and electronic equipment’[52] discusses these implications further.

58. It is therefore concluded that no further exploration of waste management costs is required for island communities as a result of this policy as there is likely to be a positive overall impact and future costs should be addressed through amendments to the WEEE EPR scheme at UK level.



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