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.

4 Environmental baseline and related PPS

4.1 Baseline consumption of single-use vapes

The report commissioned by Zero Waste Scotland[51] estimated that between April 2022 and April 2023, between 21 and 26 million single-use vapes were consumed in Scotland, along with between 800 and 1000 tonnes of packaging from single-use vapes. The report found that the market for single-use vapes was growing quickly, with sales doubling in six months between October 2022 and March 2023.

4.2 PPS related to vapes

4.2.1 Scottish and UK Commitments

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2023-2024[52] includes a commitment to take action to reduce vaping among non-smokers and young people and to tackle the environmental impact of single-use vapes, including consulting on a proposal to ban their sale and other appropriate measures.

In November 2023 the Scottish Government published its new Tobacco and Vaping Framework: roadmap to 2034[53]. One of the three themes underlying the framework is product, specifically what can be done to ensure vapes are used appropriately to support cessation but deter take up where not used for quitting tobacco. These devices should never be used by children and young people, who are known represent a significant proportion of the population who are using these devices.

Evidence on the long-term harms of vaping and on the effects of vaping on young people is still emergent. As such, a precautionary approach has been adopted by the Scottish Government with an objective to protect public health and prevent nicotine addiction and other known potential health harms deriving from the use of vaping products. [54] This is especially relevant to children, young people and non-smokers.

In October 2023, the UK Government published ‘Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation’[55] which included proposals to tackle youth vaping and to restrict the sale of single vapes. Following this, the Scottish Government, alongside the UK Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, published a UK-wide consultation which received nearly 28,000 responses.

The consultation feedback showed widespread support for banning the sale and supply of disposable vapes. Almost 80% of respondents agreed that there should be restrictions on the sale and supply of disposable vapes, with a common theme of concern over their environmental impacts arising in the comments[56]. 69% of respondents believed that such restrictions should take the form of banning their sale and supply[57].

A new Vaping Products Duty will be introduced by the UK government in October 2026. A public consultation[58] is underway on this new duty and will close on 29 May 2024. It sets out the proposals for how the duty will be designed and implemented and will be accompanied by a one-off increase in tobacco duties.

4.2.2 International legislation

In the European Union (EU), the Regulation (EU) 2023/1542 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning batteries and waste batteries (the new Batteries Regulation) requires that portable batteries in products (such as disposable e-cigarettes), must be readily removable and replaceable by the users themselves with very limited exception. Single-use vapes not meeting these requirements will be prevented from being placed on the market in the EU as of 18 February 2027.[59]

The French government is considering a ban on single-use vapes amid health and environmental concerns, likely to come into effect by September 2024. Belgium authorities have also decided to ban single-use vapes expected to come into effect from 1 January 2026. Ireland and Germany are also considering bans on single-use vapes due to their concerns about environmental impacts and disposal issues.[60]

The sale of all e-cigarettes (vapes) with a flavour other than tobacco is banned in Finland, and restrictions apply to advertising and promotion at points of sale.[61] In Norway, sales of e-cigarettes and e-liquids are restricted to instances where the product has been approved by the Directorate of Health. Domestic sale of flavoured vapes is also banned in China, though their manufacture for export is permitted.[62]

New Zealand introduced a ban on single-use vapes in 2023 whereby manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers must only sell single-use vaping products that have a removable battery, a child safety mechanism, follow new nicotine concentration requirements, and comply with new labelling requirements[63]. Further restrictions include limiting vape products and their packaging to only allow generic flavour descriptions and prohibiting new specialist vape shops from opening in the immediate vicinity of schools.

Australia has also taken action to limit the use of vapes through stronger legislation, enforcement, education, and support. From October 2021, a prescription is required to lawfully access vapes containing nicotine in Australia[64] and imports of single-use vapes were banned from January 2024.

Other countries, such as Qatar and Singapore, banned the use of vapes in their entirety, whereby the possession or sale of them can result in a penalty fine. More information on international legislation restricting the sale and supply of vapes is provided on the Tobacco Control Laws website[65].

4.2.3 Persistent Organic Pollutants

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical substances which pose a risk to human health and the environment due to their persistence in the environment, bioaccumulation through the food chain, and long-range environmental transport across a wide geographical range[66]. The Stockholm Convention[67] plays a crucial role in safeguarding human health and the environment from the impacts of POPs. The Stockholm Convention aims to reduce or eliminate the release of POPs.

The UK’s obligations under the Stockholm Convention are implemented by Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 of the European Parliament and of the Council on persistent organic pollutants, which is assimilated law, and the Persistent Organic Pollutants Regulations 2007[68], with enforcement carried out by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland. SEPA have issued guidance[69] on how to responsibly dispose of WEEE containing POPs. SEPA expects that the majority of WEEE should already be classified and consigned as special waste due to the presence of hazardous substances and/or including POPs. In the absence of such an assessment, SEPA advises that a precautionary classification of ‘hazardous waste and POP waste’ status should be adopted. Vapes are classified under Category 7 of this guidance: ‘Toys, leisure and sporting equipment containing POPs’.

4.3 Waste and circular economy PPS

4.3.1 UK Emissions Trading Scheme

The Scottish Government is working with other nations in the UK on the expansion of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to include incineration and energy from waste. The UK ETS Authority held a joint consultation[70] in 2022. A joint UK response[71] set out that inclusion of incineration and energy from waste in the UK ETS could facilitate reductions in emissions and increased efficiency of these processes by, for example, incentivising increases in recycling and investments in mixed waste sorting, heat networks and carbon capture and storage. The response noted an intention to include incineration and energy from waste in the UK ETS from 2028, but noted further work was needed on several areas ahead of a further consultation. Components of single-use vapes (and reusable vapes at the end of their usable lives) may be required to be incinerated due to their POPs content. Waste managers dealing with end-of-life vapes will therefore be affected by the potential inclusion of energy from waste in the UK ETS scheme.

4.3.2 Circular Economy

The Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill[72] as introduced, includes measures to establish a legislative framework to support Scotland’s transition towards a circular economy. The Bill includes provisions to require Scottish Ministers to publish a strategy for a circular economy every 5 years and enables regulations to impose circular economy targets on the Scottish Ministers. Additional provisions in the Bill include:

  • A power to make regulations restricting the disposal of unsold consumer goods.
  • Giving local authorities new powers and responsibilities for collection of household waste, including a power for Scottish Ministers to set household waste recycling targets for local authorities.
  • Providing additional enforcement powers in relation to the householder duty of care, household waste requirements and littering from vehicles.
  • Providing additional enforcement powers to SEPA and local authorities in relation to other waste crimes.
  • A power to require the information as to waste and surplus be made available.
  • Powers to introduce charges for single-use items such as coffee cups.

The Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill is currently at Stage 2[73].

The Bill aims to accelerate Scotland’s journey towards a circular economy, and the proposed ban on the sale and supply of single-use vapes aligns with this ambition by phasing out single-use items and encouraging the adoption of reusable alternatives.

The Scottish Government launched a consultation on Scotland’s Circular Economy and Waste Route Map to 2030[74] in January 2024. The Route Map sets out how Scotland should deliver its circular economy ambitions, making use of the new powers included in the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill.

Measures in the Route Map are grouped under four strategic aims, which reflect the span of the waste hierarchy:

1. Reduce and reuse.

2. Modernise recycling.

3. Decarbonise disposal.

4. Strengthen the circular economy.

The first strategic aim of the Route Map consultation[75] includes a commitment to ‘consult on actions regarding the environmental impacts of single-use vapes’.

4.3.3 Extended Producer Responsibility

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 aim to encourage the reuse and recycling of WEEE by placing financial responsibilities on producers and distributors of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) to pay for collection and disposal schemes for end-of-life products. This means that all producers who place EEE on the UK market, including producers of single-use vapes, are responsible for financing the costs of the collection, treatment, recovery, and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE.

The Scottish Government, together with the UK and Welsh Governments and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, intend to reform the current producer responsibility for WEEE . This reform will make it easier for people to dispose responsibly of WEEE and ensure that producers of these products take full responsibility for their responsible management at end of life. The plans for these reforms have recently been consulted on[76].

The recently closed consultation proposed action on vaping products, specifically ‘to create a new discrete category of equipment for vapes’. Currently, vapes are included in the category (7) for ‘toys, leisure and sports equipment’.

By creating a new category for vapes it will help ensure that vapes producers are contributing more to the full cost of separate collection and recycling of waste vapes. It will remove the risk of other existing Category 7 producers subsidising the cost of collection and treatment of vapes. It will also remove risks to Producer Compliance Schemes of incurring costs associated with vape collection and recycling that are disproportionate to their members’ market share of the vapes placed on the UK market.

4.4 Climatic Factors

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009[77] (‘The 2009 Act’) sets out Scotland’s commitment on tackling climate change. The 2009 Act sets out the statutory framework for greenhouse gas emissions reduction in Scotland and set targets for reduction in emissions of the seven Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050, compared to the 1990/1995 baseline level. The 2009 Act was amended in 2019 through The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act (‘the 2019 Act’)[78]. The 2019 Act set targets to reduce Scotland's emissions of all greenhouse gases to net-zero by 2045 at the latest, with interim targets for reductions of at least 56% by 2020, 75% by 2030, 90% by 2040. The 2019 Act also requires that annual greenhouse gas emissions targets are set, by Order, for each year in the period 2021-2045. Following the initial phase of target-setting, the annual targets are set in nine-year batches.

The Handbook of Climate Trends Across Scotland[79] shows that the effects of climate change are already being felt in Scotland. Although the effects and severity of climate change is expected to vary by location, there is considerable evidence in the literature to support that significant changes in precipitation, snowfall, seasonality, cloud cover, humidity, wind speeds, soil moisture, rising sea levels and other extreme weather events may occur. The significant climate change impacts of material consumption and waste, along with the critical mitigating impact of resource efficient, circular economy policies have been firmly established in academic literature. Zero Waste Scotland’s report The Carbon Impacts of the Circular Economy (2015)[80] estimates that over two thirds of Scotland’s carbon footprint are directly related to material consumption and, to a lesser extent, waste.

The Scottish Waste Environmental Footprint Tool[81] found that, in 2022, discarded equipment (mainly consisting of waste electronic and electrical equipment) was among the top five highest contributors to climate change of all household waste categories. However, it should be noted that the majority of these impacts are generated during the production stage, and therefore not likely to occur in Scotland. Impacts originating outside Scotland are out of scope of this assessment.

This assessment will focus on how a ban on the sale of single-use vapes is expected to contribute to changes in Scotland’s territorial greenhouse gas emissions through a reduction in consumption and disposal of single-use vapes in favour of reusable alternatives. The assessment will also consider the embodied carbon impacts of wasted single-use vapes.

4.5 Biodiversity

Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2045 (2020)[82] lays out the Scottish Government’s plan for a ‘nature positive’ Scotland by 2045. The document defines nature positive as ‘reversing the downward curve of biodiversity loss so that levels of biodiversity are once again increasing, bending the curve of biodiversity loss’ within Scotland’s borders. The strategy lists a set of outcomes that cover various environments including land and seascapes, rivers, lochs, wetlands, and coastal areas. The strategy also includes a list of priority actions for 2030, which are split into the following categories:

1. Accelerating restoration and regeneration.

2. Expanding and connecting protected areas and improving their condition.

3. Nature-friendly farming, fishing and forestry.

4. Recovering and protecting vulnerable and important species; and

5. Investing in nature.

Litter can negatively impact biodiversity through entanglement and ingestion. Plastics in the environment can also act as vector for other pollutants[83]. Plastic litter is estimated to lead globally every year to the mortality (either directly or indirectly) of one million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, including 30,000 seals and 100,000 turtles, either through entanglement or ingestion[84]. These impacts can negatively affect species’ ability to hunt, avoid predators and reproduce. This can result in deficiencies in a habitat’s ability to host a variety of individual species and provide nesting sites. These impacts will influence the services the ecosystem can provide for human populations, such as food production and carbon sequestration.

This assessment will seek to determine whether the proposed ban will impact on the Scottish Government’s plans for a nature positive Scotland or impact Scotland’s biodiversity through changing levels of litter resulting from the sale and use of single-use vapes.

4.6 Human Health

While vapes are known to have some benefits when used to help smokers quit smoking tobacco, there are concerns over the health implications for non-smokers and young people taking up the use of vapes [85].

The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children report[86] finds that 3% of 11-year-olds, 10% of 13-year-olds and 25% of 15-year-olds said they had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. The report also found that there have been increases in current use of vapes among children since 2018.

While existing research suggests that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, the long-term health effects are not yet fully understood [87]. The World Health Organization advises that electronic nicotine delivery systems (such as vapes) are addictive and not without harm and should be strictly regulated for maximum protection of public health[88].

Vapes can be harmful to health, particularly for non-smokers and children, adolescents, and young adults, and their effects on many important health outcomes are uncertain[89]. Further research is needed into the health impacts of vaping and the safety and efficacy of vapes as a smoking cessation tool.

Vapes which are littered or incorrectly disposed of are also a potential fire risk. Members of the public and waste workers are put at risk of injury from fires caused by lithium-ion batteries[90]. A ban on single-use vapes is expected to reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of battery fires and the resultant potential for damage and injury.

There may also be positive impacts on mental health and wellbeing if the ban is successful in achieving a reduction in litter. The Scottish Litter Survey[91] found that the effects of litter on local residents’ health and wellbeing was among respondents’ top three concerns, ranking third after the impact on animals and the environment and negative perceptions of the neighbourhood. Furthermore, the Carnegie Trust found that those who reported the highest incidence of environmental incivilities such as litter were more likely to report anxiety, depression, poor health, smoking, and poor exercise than those with more positive views on this aspect of their local environment[92]. Another study[93] investigated the effect of litter on psychological reactions to marine environments. The study found that photographs of un-littered coasts tended to provide participants with a sense of happiness and less stress while photographs exhibiting littered coasts caused participants to exhibit stress and a lack of the positive psychological benefits that coastal environments normally provide.

4.7 Material Assets

One of the proposed objectives for this assessment is to reduce loss of materials as litter. The 2023 Scottish Litter Survey found that single-use vapes are the fastest growing litter item, with half of survey respondents reporting that sightings of these have become more common in the past 12 months[94].

The National Litter and Flytipping Strategy[95] was published in June 2023 and seeks to build on the progress made since ‘Towards a Litter-Free Scotland’[96] was published in 2014 to tackle litter and flytipping in Scotland and acknowledges the wider context of the circular economy and Scotland’s net zero aims. The strategy will cover three broad themes: behaviour change, services and infrastructure, and enforcement.

The UK’s Critical Minerals Strategy[97], published in 2022, sets out an approach to improve the resilience of critical mineral supply chains to increase the security of supply and action plan to best conserve critical raw materials. The strategy commits Defra to explore regulatory interventions to promote reuse, recycling, and recovery of critical minerals. Critical minerals include lithium to make batteries for many electrical items, including vapes. The resources used to make disposable vapes (e.g. oil for plastic casing and metals like copper and lithium) could be used for other purposes such as in the manufacture of other products, like lithium being used in the creation of batteries for electric vehicles.

The Scottish Waste Environmental Footprint Tool[98] found that, in 2022, discarded equipment (mainly consisting of waste electronic and electrical equipment) was by far the largest contributor to mineral resource scarcity of all household waste categories, meaning a reduction in generated WEEE could help to reduce depletion of key metal resources such as lithium and cobalt.

This assessment will seek to determine how a ban on the sale of single-use vapes will help to reduce consumption of virgin materials, reduce waste, and preserve critical raw materials currently lost to the economy either as litter or in the residual waste stream.

4.8 Landscape and visual impacts

The Fourth National Planning Framework[99] was adopted by the Scottish Ministers on 13 February 2023, following approval by the Scottish Parliament in January. The Framework sets out a national spatial strategy for Scotland, including spatial principles, regional priorities, national developments, and national planning policy. The strategy will be relevant to wider policies and strategies relating to land use. The framework recognises the significant progress required to reach Scotland’s Net Zero goals. It will require new development and infrastructure across Scotland, as well as adaptation to the impacts of climate change that are already locked in. This includes increased flood risk, water scarcity, environmental change, coastal erosion, impacts on forestry and agriculture, extreme weather events, and risks to health, food security and safety.

The Fourth National Planning Framework has been included in the landscape and visual impacts section of this assessment. It should however be noted that it will also be relevant in areas such as biodiversity and climatic factors, and will additionally be considered in relation to these areas.

NatureScot’s Landscape Policy Framework[100] describes an overarching aim “To safeguard and enhance the distinct identity, the diverse character and the special qualities of Scotland’s landscapes as a whole, so as to ensure tomorrow’s landscapes contribute positively to people’s environment and are at least as attractive and valued as they are today.” Keeping these environments free from litter and damaging chemicals will help to protect and enhance the natural beauty of such landscapes.

The 2023 Scottish Litter Survey found that single-use vapes are the fastest growing litter item, with half of survey respondents reporting that sightings of these have become more common in the past 12 months[101].

This assessment will seek to determine whether the proposed ban will contribute to enhancing the visual impact of Scotland’s landscapes through a reduction in the volume and nature of litter in Scottish landscapes.

4.9 Air

The Air Quality Standards (Scotland) Regulations 2010[102] transpose the air quality environmental protection objectives from the European Air Quality Directive (2008)[103] into the Scottish context, and further air quality matters are set in the Environment Act 1995[104]. These objectives are aimed at reducing harmful air pollution and monitoring air quality, with a focus on areas where air pollution is concentrated.

The Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012[105] provide the framework for the permitting of many industrial activities by SEPA and the setting of permit conditions, including limits on emissions. At UK level, the Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland[106] includes long term objectives for improving air quality, focusing on options to tackle pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulfur dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, butadiene, carbon monoxide, lead, and ammonia.

All of the eight main pollutant emission levels reported in the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory decreased between 2005 and 2021, with the greatest rate of decline seen in sulfur dioxide emissions[107].

The Scottish Waste Environmental Footprint Tool[108] found that, in 2022, discarded equipment (mainly consisting of waste electronic and electrical equipment) was among the top three highest contributors to air pollution of all household waste categories. However, it should be noted that the majority of these impacts are generated during the production stage, and therefore not likely to occur in Scotland. Impacts originating outside Scotland are out of scope of this assessment.

There are concerns over pollutants contributing to worsening air quality as a result of single-use vapes[109]. Vapours from e-cigarettes (vapes) are potent sources of environmental air pollution, particularly aldehydes and carbon monoxide[110]. This assessment considers changes in levels of air pollution expected as a result of the proposed ban on the sale and supply of single-use vapes.

4.10 Water

The European Water Framework Directive[111] sets objectives on the condition of water bodies including rivers, lochs, transitional and coastal waters, and groundwater resources in the EU. Assessments of the chemical and ecological status and consideration of the biodiversity status are required as indicators of water quality. The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 set out water environment protection and improvement in the Scottish context and partially implement the Water Framework Directive.

Most of Scotland’s seas, coasts, and estuaries are in good or excellent condition, with nearly half of rivers in Scotland in good condition or better and almost two thirds of lochs in good or high condition. Around 80% of Scotland’s groundwater is in good condition, although there are regions with widespread problems, for example, in the Central Belt[112].

This assessment will investigate the contribution the proposed policy could have towards reducing water pollution in bodies of water in Scotland. This would be achieved through reducing occurrences of littered single-use vapes, and the associated risks of residual liquids and plastics reaching waterways.

4.11 Soil

The Scottish Soil Framework[113] was developed with the vision that soils are recognised as a vital part of our economy, environment and heritage, to be safeguarded for existing and future generations. The main aim of the Framework is to promote the sustainable management and protection of soils consistent with the economic, social, and environmental needs of Scotland.

This assessment will investigate the contribution the proposed policy could have towards reducing soil pollution. This would be achieved through reducing littering of single-use vapes and resultant soil pollution such as microplastics and residual liquids.



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