Prohibition of the sale and supply of single-use vapes: strategic environmental assessment - environmental report

The strategic environmental assessment environmental report for the proposed prohibition of the sale and supply of single-use vapes.

3 Approach to the assessment

3.1 Scope of the assessment

This assessment considers the estimated impacts of the proposed ban on the sale and supply of single-use vapes across Scotland, assuming implementation from 1 April 2025.

Table 2 sets out the environmental topics scoped into this assessment, as proposed in the Scoping Report. ‘Cultural heritage and the historic environment’ was scoped out of this assessment as no significant direct impacts are anticipated in relation to this topic.

Feedback from the consultation on the Scoping Report indicated that all statutory consultees were satisfied with the environmental topics proposed.

Table 2 Scope of environmental topics assessed

Biodiversity: In

Human health: In

Soil: In

Water: In

Air: In

Climatic Factors: In

Material Assets: In

Cultural heritage and the historic environment : Out

Landscape and visual impacts: In

3.2 Environmental objectives

The anticipated impacts of the proposed policy have been assessed against each of the following environmental objectives, as set out in the Scoping Report and approved by the statutory consultees.

One additional objective has been added during the analysis stage of this assessment, as it was determined that additional impacts were likely under the ‘Air’ category which were not covered by the original objectives. These impacts relate to the air quality benefits from avoided waste fires. The human health objectives were broadened to cover secondary impacts from reduced vape use and the related environmental benefits.

3.2.1 Climatic Factors

  • Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the disposal of single-use vapes, including the impacts of the embodied carbon in wasted vapes.

3.2.2 Biodiversity

  • Protect habitats and species in Scotland from damage resulting from littered single-use vapes.

3.2.3 Human health

  • Improve human health in Scotland through a reduction in the ease of use of single-use vapes for new smokers, and the associated health concerns;
  • Reduce the risk to the general public from second hand inhalation of vapours and exposure to chemical pollution and litter caused by vapes; and
  • Reduce the risk of harm to waste managers and members of the public resulting from fires caused by incorrectly disposed vapes.

3.2.4 Material Assets

  • Reduce consumption of virgin materials, including critical raw materials, used in vapes; and
  • Reduce loss of materials to landfill, energy recovery, or litter in the form of discarded single-use vapes.

3.2.5 Landscape and visual impacts

  • Enhance the visual impact of Scotland’s landscapes through a reduction in the volume of littered vapes in the environment.

3.2.6 Air

  • Contribute to improved air quality through the reduction in use of single-use vapes and resultant pollution from vapours; and
  • Reduce the risk of air pollution caused by the disposal of waste vapes and the associated risk of waste fires.

3.2.7 Water

  • Protect waterways in Scotland from pollution resulting from littered single-use vapes e.g. from residual nicotine, additives, and microplastics.

3.2.8 Soil

  • Enhance soil quality in Scotland by reducing soil pollution from littered single-use vapes e.g. from residual nicotine, additives, and microplastics.

3.3 Consideration of reasonable alternatives

The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that reasonable alternatives be assessed.

This assessment considers the environmental impacts of the proposed ban against the following reasonable alternatives:

Option 1: Continue with existing commitments only: i.e. do not implement a ban. Vapes will continue to be included under the upcoming reforms to WEEE EPR.

Option 2: Option 1 + Launch of an information campaign:

i.e. take a non-regulatory approach to encourage more responsible use and disposal of vapes, raising awareness of how they can be recycled.

These alternatives align with the shortlisted policy options identified by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in their impact assessment of a ban on single-use vapes.

The following alternative policy options were among those considered at UK level, and a rationale provided as to why they would not be a suitable alternative to the preferred policy option and alternatives:

  • Implementation of a deposit return scheme for single-use vapes:

This option would involve deposits being placed on single-use vapes to incentivise recycling. This option could help with increasing recycling of single-use vapes and thereby reduce negative impacts on the environment. This option was deemed less likely to promote the use of reusable alternatives and would also take several years to implement, while the problem under consideration is growing rapidly. It was therefore concluded that this option was not likely to deliver the required outcomes at the pace needed to tackle the problem of growing single-use vape use, and is not considered a reasonable alternative to banning the sale and supply of single-use vapes.

  • Request-only option: This option would involve single-use vapes being available by request-only in all settings, but not readily on display (i.e. only made available if a consumer specifically asks for one). The impacts of this policy on reducing the usage of single-use vapes are uncertain and this in turn may not reduce the current environmental impacts being faced. It would also be more difficult for enforcement bodies to monitor compliance with this regulation and would likely have no effect on online consumption (where it is estimated 30-35% of consumers purchase vapes[50]). It was therefore concluded that this option does not offer a reasonable alternative to banning of the sale and supply of single-use vapes.
  • Improved product design of single-use vapes for easier recyclability:

A standardisation for the design and recycling of single-use vapes could ease the burden on recyclers and enable automation of the recycling process, as opposed to manual dismantling. However, any product standard would take time to develop, implement and enforce, potentially disrupting the availability of vape products to those who require them. This option also fails to promote the use of reusable alternatives to single-use vapes. Due to concerns over feasibility, this option was not considered a reasonable alternative to banning the sale and supply of single-use vapes.

  • Tax on single-use vapes: The Scottish Government do not have the devolved powers to introduce a new tax in Scotland, and this option would only be feasible under UK legislation. The UK Government considered the introduction of a tax on single-use vapes in their long-list of policy options, concluding that, due to the risks and uncertainty over its sustained impact, it was not taken forward as a preferred option.
  • Prescribing single-use vapes: The licensing and regulation of medicines in the UK is reserved to the UK Government and undertaken on their behalf by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). That includes nicotine-containing products used for medicinal purposes, such as patches or lozenges. It is the MHRA (rather than a UK Government minister) that determines whether a medicine is available on the UK market: either only on prescription, or restricted sale through pharmacies, or for general sale at any retail outlet. There are currently no nicotine vapour products (NVPs) approved by the MHRA for prescription. Vapes cannot be offered on prescription unless and until the MHRA acted to licence an NVP. To achieve a licence, products need to meet the standards of quality, safety, and efficacy expected of medicinal products. If successful, this would allow products to be made available for prescription in Scotland. Approval of a licensed NVP to be prescribed by NHS healthcare professionals in Scotland would generally be achieved through an application to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), and if recommended for use, consideration by the local Area Drug and Therapeutic Committees of the NHS Boards. However, without a company successfully applying for a licence for their NVPs to be put on a prescription basis the Scottish Government does not have a route to put vapes on prescription and cannot act to make vapes (or single use vapes) prescription-only.

Feedback on the Scoping Report suggested that the Consultation Authorities were content with the proposed approach to the consideration of reasonable alternatives.

3.4 Environmental Principles

The assessment in this SEA will follow the guiding principles in section 13(1) of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021 (the Continuity Act). These principles are:

  • The principle that protecting the environment should be integrated into the making of policies.
  • The precautionary principle as it relates to the environment.
  • The principle that preventative action should be taken to avert environmental damage.
  • The principle that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source.
  • The principle that the polluter should pay.

The assessment objectives encompass the principles that environmental damage should be prevented or reduced by the policy in question. The assessment highlights any outcomes of the proposed policy that may expected to cause environmental damage.

The proposal itself is guided by many of the principles. It is being designed with the aim of protecting the environment from the negative impacts of single-use material consumption and waste. The proposal is guided by the principles of taking preventative action to avert environmental damage and the rectification of impacts at source; seeking to address the environmental impacts of single-use vapes by reducing their consumption in the first instance.

3.5 Assessment Methodology

This SEA has been undertaken on a topic-by-topic basis to allow the potential for environmental impacts under each of the in-scope environmental topic to be explored separately. The overarching aim of this assessment was to analyse each relevant topic in order to identify, describe, and evaluate (where possible) the likely significant environmental effects – both positive and negative – that could arise from the implementation the proposed ban of single-use vapes.

A review of relevant literature was undertaken to draw insight from existing reports, life cycle assessment studies, and other relevant work in this area. Data collected on the environmental impacts of single-use vapes was combined with the best available estimates of the current volume of items placed on the Scottish market, and the resultant impacts the proposal is expected to cause in Scotland.

As well as a reduction in legal sales of single-use vapes in Scotland, this assessment takes into consideration some potential unintended consequences. For example, a potential increased demand for illegally sold single-use vapes, and the increase in use of reuseable vapes and their refill containers. Where data was not available to quantify such impacts, qualitative exploration of potential outcomes has been included instead.

The following key considerations will be used to inform the assessment:

  • Consultation with the consultative authorities (SEPA, NatureScot and Historic Environment Scotland) and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Relevant contextual information including a review of associated PPS, the regulatory framework, and the environmental baseline.
  • The nature of the potential effect (what is expected to happen).
  • The timing and duration of the potential effect (e.g. short, medium or long term).
  • The geographic scale of the potential effect (e.g. local, regional, national).
  • The location of the potential effect (e.g. whether it affects rural or urban communities).
  • The potential effect on vulnerable communities or sensitive habitats (e.g. terrestrial or marine).
  • The reasons for whether the effect is considered significant or not.
  • The reasons for any uncertainty, where this is identified.
  • The potential to avoid, minimise, reduce, mitigate, or compensate for the identified effect(s) with evidence (where applicable).

Where the baseline data has been slight, uncertain, or incomprehensive, the best available information together with professional assumptions and judgement will be utilised to assess the anticipated significant effects of introducing the proposed policy.

The results from this exercise will be considered against the environmental objectives suggested above, and the extent to which they are likely to be met will be discussed. Secondary, cumulative, and synergistic effects will also be considered at this stage.

The process should enable key issues associated with the Scottish Government’s proposal to ban the sale and supply of single-use vapes to be explored in relation to the environmental topic areas and the relevant environmental objectives.

The report will then explore mitigation options for any negative impacts identified, and, where appropriate, offer suggestions on maximising environmental benefits identified in the assessment. For example, the assessment will consider the potential impacts of increased consumption, disposal, and potentially littering, of refill containers for reusable vapes. Some suggestions are provided to help determine the best approach to the monitoring and evaluation of the environmental benefits of the policy.



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