Waitrose Discontinue The Sale of Disposable Vapes
As we enter 2023, the disposable vaping wave that washed over the UK throughout 2022 has left it’s mark. The brightly coloured, single-use vaping products have cemented themselves as household names thanks to their runaway popularity.
Unlike bottled e-liquids and more modular devices like the EDGE GO, the devices are a one-piece unit designed to be bought, vaped until dry and then thrown away. At circa £5-6 per disposable, they tend to be cheaper initially than other vaping devices but more expensive overall due to their short lifespan.
DISPOSABLE VAPES SO FAR
We’ve covered a great deal of their rise to prominence and the many issues they have caused along the way. The UK’s lawmakers and authorities like Trading Standards are still trying to work out the best way to police the import and sale of these devices.
So far, due to their massive demand and profit potential we have seen:
- Illegal importation and sale of unregulated versions of disposable vapes that do not comply with UK safety standards and exceed legal safe limits placed on both nicotine content and e-liquid volume.
- Massive stock seizures and investigative actions by Trading Standards across the UK in an attempt to protect consumers and educate retailers on compliance.
- The devices are a single unit made from wholly non-recyclable parts. They are being littered extensively, and those that do make it into bins are heading to landfill. This means enough precious lithium to produce 1200 electric cars is being lost forever each year.
- A significant youth access issue is still building as those underage are being motivated by social media such as TikTok and their peers to get their hands on the trendy vaping devices. It has been stated that one in five fifteen-year-olds are now using disposable vapes.
- Children are getting the devices from a number of different places including smaller retailers and markets, however even supermarkets have been identified as a source of underage sale.
- The youth vaping concern is at such a level that schools are confiscating hundreds of devices each week from pupils. In response, leading anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) to build guidance on how to develop vaping policies in schools and to educate people about the risks in context vs smoking.
- Industry and government experts have debated the issue extensively, even admitting Trading Standards doesn’t have the resources to make a significant difference. They have encouraged shoppers to report suspicious sales and stock, as well as encouraging retailers to act responsibly.
WAITROSE TAKES A STAND AGAINST DISPOSABLE VAPING
Knowledge of the negative impacts of disposable vaping has been spreading, and we have begun to see both the vaping industry and retailers in general take steps to minimise the risks. Some brands have begun releasing disposables made from more sustainable materials, and some of the biggest disposable names like Elf and Elux have introduced rechargeable and pod-based devices alongside their other disposables in an attempt to move away from the single-use stigma.
Of course, it is difficult for many to ignore the potentially staggering financial benefit of carrying the devices in their stores, however major retailer Waitrose has taken the first decisive step. They have removed the two varieties of Ten Motives branded disposable vaping devices they stocked from sale.
WHY HAVE WAITROSE DROPPED DISPOSABLES?
The supermarket chain has stated that it cannot justify selling disposable vapes given their impact on the environment and the health of young people.
It has been reported throughout 2022 that the lithium used in disposable vape batteries is being taken out of the economy. This is of concern not only because the rare and valuable lithium is needed to make vital tech for schools and hospitals to name just two, but that it is a resource we are finding increasingly scarce.
On top of the lithium being locked away in landfills, the non-recyclable plastics and nicotine containing residues these devices contain make them a fully realised environmental nightmare.
Reflecting the ongoing youth access battle too, Waitrose have cited the appeal these devices hold over younger people as a driving factor behind their decision to drop them. The data clearly shows a significant chunk of the new vapers who have used disposables did not previously smoke or vape, they have picked it up because it is trendy – this has raised serious concerns across the board as schools continue to report mass confiscations.
“Our move comes as reports suggest that the market growth is being fuelled by the popularity among those who haven’t previously smoked,”
Much like ourselves at EDGE, Waitrose has a corporate social responsibility (CSR) that it is choosing to uphold in this decision. You can read the EDGE CSR Policy on our site, but it forms the basis for our own decision to avoid producing disposable vapes – they are just too morally questionable.
Waitrose commercial director, Charlotte Di Cello, said: “We are a retailer driven by doing the right thing, so selling single-use vapes is not something we could justify given the impact on both the environment and the health of young people.”
“We had already decided it wasn’t right to stock the fashionable bright-coloured devices which are seeing rapid growth, so this decision is the final jigsaw piece in our clear decision not to be part of the single-use vaping market.”
No other major UK supermarket chains have publicly announced that they will be taking similar action, but this could be the beginning of a significant turning point in the disposables trend.
We applaud Waitrose’s decision to drop disposables, and commend their opting to put the environment and the safety of both consumers and the UK’s youth above profit and trends.