"Besides the increasing use among minors, the main challenge of disposable models is the issue of environment and sustainability. Currently, it is more expensive to recycle a disposable vejp than it is to manufacture it"
So says John Dunne, Director General of the world's largest trade organisation for electronic cigarettes, UKVIA.
Disposable models have quickly become one of the best-selling e-cigarettes on the market. Not surprisingly, perhaps. Due to their simplicity and size, many kiosks that previously did not sell e-cigarettes have started selling single-use models alongside analogue cigarettes. According to market research sales turnover almost one billion annually in Sweden alone.
Caught many off guard
But availability comes at a price. Initially, disposable vapes have generated a heated debate, both within and outside the vejp world, not least because of a increased uptake among young people. Even in the UK, where the use of e-cigarettes has become part of the strategy to reduce smoking in the country, the exploding market for disposable models has caught many off guard.
Changed attitude towards disposable weapons
Like many others in the vejp industry, there were also John Dunne, Director General of the trade organisation UKVIA which organises nearly 50 vejp companies and as many related organisations and entrepreneurs, was initially sceptical about the products.
"But I have actually changed my mind. It is far from only younger people who buy them. We see through our members that older people also like the products and that they seem to play a crucial role in attracting smokers to try e-cigarettes," he tells Vejpkollen when we meet during the event. E-cigarette summit 2022.
Shops selling to children
John Dunne believes that disposable vapes have an important role to play, not least because e-cigarettes are becoming a common product in even the most traditional tobacco shops, as a readily available alternative to cigarettes. However, UKVIA has recognised that many shops outside the traditional vejp industry often do not comply with the laws and regulations governing the sale of e-cigarettes. Lack of age verification and unauthorised products are common.
'We saw a pattern where neither the authorities nor other responsible parties were able to address the problems. We realised that we as an organisation need to do more to help on the ground. If only for the sake of the industry," says John Dunne.
In 2022, the organisation carried out regular checks on shops in London, alerting authorities to illegal sales to minors and products not registered under the UK regulatory framework (which is based on the EU TPD even after leaving the EU). Recently, the UK government allocated £3 million to be spent on tackling illegal sales, something that John Dunne and UKVIA welcomed.
A question of sustainability
But it is not only the use by minors that concerns Mr Dunne. Disposable models create other problems that need to be addressed, he says.
"We can overcome youth use by getting more people to comply with the laws that are already in place. But the big challenge with disposable models is the issue of sustainability. Obviously, we take the environmental risks of these products very seriously," said Mr Perez. John Dunne.
The lithium battery in a disposable vape is the same as in a regular e-cigarette. The difference is that the format itself, a wear-and-tear product, does not exactly encourage the user to recycle the device. And that needs to change, according to John Dunne.
"The problem today is that it is cheaper to produce a disposable vape than it is to recycle it. The industry needs to find a solution. We, as a trade organisation, have tried to bring together the largest manufacturers and major retailers to raise the issue. We want everyone involved to help in their own way: with the manufacturing process, the choice of materials and how recycling opportunities become part of the sales process," says Mr Perez. John Dunne to Vejpkollen.
Trusting the industry
The solutions haven't really landed yet, says Mr Perez. John Dunne. Nevertheless, he trusts the industry to find a solution. Recently, the recycling company Waste Experts became a member of UKVIA, a sign of change, he says. John Dunne.
"I have no doubt that we in industry can solve this. Since their inception, Vejp companies have proven to be some of the most innovative companies in the world. They will fix this too. There is also a lot of money in the pot. If they want to sell disposable models, and reap the benefits of their popularity, they must also take responsibility for sustainability and the environment. Otherwise, there is a high risk that their products will be regulated out of existence. I think even the bigger players are realising this and need to act wisely," he says. John Dunne.
EU rules around the corner
Since the interview, the EU's investigation into a new battery regulation has moved closer to a decision in the European Parliament, which risks banning both disposable models and other e-cigarettes with built-in batteries. The aim is for all batteries, including built-in ones, to be easy to either remove or replace by the end user.